Hastings Campaigns team joining national campaign.
Campaign to End Indefinite Immigration Detention
We are now developing a second strand for our national campaigning work, joining a further campaign which has also, like the Lift the Ban campaign, been gathering increasing cross-party support. This concerns the detention in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) of people whom the Home Office plans to deport. We are applying to join the campaign These Walls Must Fall run by the NGO Right to Remain, and Detention Action who are in turn members of the overarching Detention Forum , of which the national City of Sanctuary is a member.
For many years there has been, on the one hand, great unease about a policy which allows people to be picked up in the middle of the night or any time, thrown into windowless vans, and taken with no notice to be incarcerated for an indefinite period of time. We are the only country in Europe practising indefinite detention pending deportation, and while most people are either deported or released back into the community after a few weeks, many are held for much longer – even years – or repeatedly released and then picked up again. On the other hand, there is a widespread lack of knowledge among the public that we lock people up, indefinitely, many of whom have committed no crime at all, and including victims of torture even though this is expressly forbidden by law, and people who have been trafficked. At this very moment, there are trafficking victims remaining in immigration detention. For a clear, brief history and background of immigration detention in the UK, see Irfan Chowdhury’s briefing.
During last year’s Refugee Tales walk (2019), I spoke with a man who had been trafficked here 17 years ago: in that time, he had spent a total of three years intermittently in detention, released on many occasions when the Home Office decided it had wrongly detained him -and then picked up again on similarly false premises. Another young man had been seized and detained, but after three weeks, released back into the community as approximately half of detainees are (thus begging the question of the efficacy, let alone morality of this whole policy). Nevertheless (indeed, in the first minutes after we had met) he told me that this was his worst experience in his entire asylum process, leaving him with deep trauma. It is in particular the complete lack of any idea of a release date that seems to affect people the most, and after that, the poor treatment so many of the detained people experience, as documented in many ways, including a number of undercover films.
In our current Covid-19 crisis, the fears and trauma of people remaining in detention are greatly compounded. The Government has responded to legal pressure from Detention Action to release many hundreds of people in immigration detention, reducing significantly the monthly tally of up to 3000 detained (with an overall number of around 30,000 people detained in a year in this policy). However, there are still over 700 people detained in IRCs, with many more being held in prisons, having completed sentences there and now awaiting automatic deportation as ‘foreign’ criminals (this group includes many who have been in the UK since they were young children).
We will be posting more information about our new campaigns as these develop. For further information, see Irfan Chowdhury’s Introduction and Background to Immigration Detention here, and sign to oppose indefinite detention, at Detention Action here.