The chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, has linked gang violence with the lack of mental healthcare available to immigrants.

Speaking at an event run by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Trevor Phillips said children fleeing to the UK from war-torn countries were not getting the "psycho-social bridge" they needed.

Talking about the recent spate of news about violence among youths from ethnic minority backgrounds he said: "People who come here for perfectly good reasons are being asked to come from places where they have seen their families killed, relatives raped and... within weeks of everything to sit in a classroom and behave like everyone else.

"Very few local authorities do anything that would provide a psycho-social bridge for these people and yet we're surprised when they behave like that."

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Andrew McCulloch said that specialist psychotherapy services were not always accessible to young immigrants, especially outside London.

In addition, commissioners were not always aware of the scale of mental health needs among local migrant communities. He said: "Migrants aren't accessing services apart from through accident and emergency units and the police.

"They aren't able to get treatment or the help they need in their own language."

But he questioned whether there was any evidence connecting violent gang crime with the availability of mental health services.

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