DO you ever wake up and think, “if only I didn’t know about all the horrible things the UK Government is doing, my mental health would be so much better”? I can relate, and apparently the Home Office can too.

This is why – in a decision since overruled by the Information Commissioner’s Office – the lovely people at the Home Office thought it best to refuse to release details such as the age, gender and nationality of asylum seekers who have died in their accommodation.

Public bodies have a right to withhold information if sharing it could “endanger the physical or mental health of any individual”. In this case, the Home Office argued that because it does not routinely inform the family members of those who die in its care, publicising any of these details could risk people figuring out that their loved one has died from a Freedom of Information response. That could certainly be damaging to the average person’s mental health – great point, Home Office, how thoughtful of you.

Of course, the average person might also conclude that the obvious solution to this would be to treat people seeking safety in our country like actual human beings and tell their next of kin when they die in the first place. That would be normal, right? That might make it seem like the people charged with “processing” asylum seekers have a shred of empathy somewhere deep within themselves. What a novel concept.

Better yet, maybe don’t leave people in such awful living conditions that the number of people who died in Home Office accommodation in 2022 had more than doubled since the year before. Perhaps take a moment for reflection on why the number of people who took their own lives in this accommodation in the past four years is twice as high as in the previous four.

But considering any of that would force the UK Government to admit that endangering mental wellbeing is not a rarity or even a bug in the asylum system – it’s a feature. Everything about this system is designed to break people down, to make securing the right to remain in the UK look like an endurance test that only the most desperate could possibly withstand.

The National: Former prime minister Theresa May has announced her decision to quit Parliament (Hannah McKay/PA)

This is the “hostile environment” that former prime minister Theresa May (above) dreamed up as home secretary (even if she now gets to skip away into a field of wheat in her impending retirement like a person with some kind of moral high ground). A nightmare that trudges on and seems only to become more and more grotesque with each new draconian law that’s introduced and with each new revelation of the sickening treatment of people who have fled here from traumatic circumstances – signed, sealed and delivered by the UK Government.

The hypocrisy in hiding behind the language of “mental health” to cover up its own wilful negligence and torment towards a group it dehumanises daily is a masterclass in this government’s willingness to manipulate the truth.

Just last month, it was revealed by a report of the borders inspectorate that Home Office staff made unaccompanied children play a “game” of guessing who would be placed in foster care next. Behaviour which the inspectorate described as “insensitive in the extreme” and “upsetting” to the children. This week, a research report by a coalition of food rights groups and organisations supporting refugees found that some asylum seekers had been hospitalised with malnourishment because the food being provided to them was of such poor quality. The authors reflected that this was part of a “deliberate policy”.

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Commenting at the weekend on its decision to conceal information on the deaths of asylum seekers, the Home Office said it “work[s] continually to ensure the needs and vulnerabilities of those residing in asylum accommodation are identified and considered, including those related to mental health and trauma”.

Reading those words is somehow even more repugnant, even more enraging, than hearing about the ways in which human beings are being treated by our government in their time of need. It’s such a calculated co-optation and distortion of the language of support and care that it risks rendering these words meaningless.

And what excellent timing, because a report was published by the Mental Health Foundation just last month on the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, the research highlighted the adverse impacts on mental wellbeing of numerous built-in aspects of the system, including being shut off from opportunities to work or from accessing public funds, poor quality housing, destitution and isolation. Not to mention the often re-traumatising experience of detention, which can go on for years; the anxiety and stress of being continually disbelieved while being forced to recount the worst experiences of your life; and the ever-present threat of deportation.

Add to this the fact that “anti-migrant” activists protested asylum accommodations 253 times in 2022 (twice as many as the previous year) – just another stress-inducing circumstance created by the UK Government, because who do you think is stirring all these people up into hatred? This from a government that claims to be concerned about “extremism”. Another word rendered meaningless by shameless cynicism.

The Mental Health Foundation says that “the Home Office should, in partnership with people with experience of seeking asylum, redesign the asylum system to ensure it does not re-traumatise individuals”. Its report makes a series of reasonable and important recommendations, including a suggestion that the UK Government’s commitment to developing a “mental health and wellbeing impact assessment tool” for policymaking should be taken forward and applied to asylum policy to create a “compassionate” system.

I sincerely hate to be the one to state the obvious here, but as much as this government might be willing to wrap itself up in the warm and fuzzy language of wellbeing, there is no impact assessment conceivable by the human mind that will convince them to exercise compassion towards asylum seekers. They don’t even care when they’re told they’re breaching international human rights laws, so I think that ship has well and truly sailed.

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We all know this. I know we all know this. But since the people sharing all of these increasingly damning and alarming findings can’t quite say it, and since the Tories are now appropriating the very language used to highlight the injustice of their policies, I’m going to say the quiet part out loud. None of this is going to get any better while this party remains in power. The asylum system needs to be torn down and rebuilt, and that’s only going to happen with a radically different government in charge.

The depressing part is that I don’t quite know when that’s going to happen. I know we have to hope that Labour can be persuaded to come up with something better than this. Maybe an impact assessment will show Keir Starmer the light and he’ll stop talking about how the Tories haven’t been tough enough on immigration. Maybe Scotland will become independent and we’ll create a fairer system for the people who come here seeking refuge.

For now, we all might have better mental health if we could close our eyes to the cruel and callous decisions of the UK Government. But for all of us who are suffering the consequences or watching on with concern for our fellow human beings, we know that isn’t an option.