Monday, 27 February 2017

Immigration detention costs lives

As part of our activities for One Day Without Us, Brookes UNISON hosted a talk from Gill Baden of Close Campsfield and the Bail Observation Project.

She described for us the horrendous uncertainty and stress caused to detained migrants, and described how and why migrants are detained, the human cost in separated families, stress and distress, the great risks to the lives of those who are deported, and the enormous cost to the taxpayer of detaining migrants who could be working and living in the community.

There are five categories of detainee:
  • refugees and asylum seekers deemed "failed" (people who have fled war zones and persecution, but whose stories are not believed); 
  • "overstayers" - typically people whose visas have run out or been reclassified, who often didn't even know they were here illegally;
  • people with criminal convictions, who are punished twice by being deported as well as imprisoned;
  • detainees who have asked to go home, but whose deportation is delayed;
  • stateless people; there is no country to send them to, or there is a nationality dispute.

51% of those detained are eventually released into the community.  There is no limit to the length of time someone can be detained in the UK, because detention centres are officially not prisons. Some people are detained for years. Most of these people are not criminals, not dangerous, and so should not be locked up. The detention is purely for the administrative convenience of the Home Office.

The hearings of the detainees' cases are a travesty of justice. The Home Office doesn't even follow its own rules, and many of the people who hear the cases are not judges and have no knowledge of immigration law. The cases are rushed through, and in many cases, the detainee is not even allowed to plead their case.

The conditions in immigration detention centres are appalling, and detainees are treated badly, not listened to, not kept informed, and deported suddenly without warning. The psychological and physical toll of being detained for an indefinite period and for no crime, plus the extreme fear of being sent back to a country where you may be tortured or killed, is extreme, and there have been many instances of people committing suicide, or dying from the stress. 

There are about 3450 people in immigration detention centres at any one time (there is a high turnover because of people being deported). Detention costs £91.61 per day, according to the Home Office. This works out as £33,437.65 per year, per detainee. Around 25000 people each year are detained

The detention centres are run by private security firms who make millions out of the industry. There have been numerous cases of rape and assault by guards

Most of the people in immigration detention have been tortured or raped in their home countries, and should therefore not be detained here at all, as it compounds their trauma and is illegal. Many are victims of trafficking and modern slavery. This applies to many of the people who are being deported because they have a criminal conviction.

There are many cases of people who have had indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence, but have been reclassified as overstayers (similar to the case of Irene Clennell, reported in Buzzfeed News today).

Security gate in Evenlode Crescent,
entrance to the Campsfield Immigration Detention Centre near Kidlington.
© Copyright Steve Daniels and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

What you can do

  • Read the Detained Voices blog. Share the posts on social media.
  • Write to your MP to say that you want immigration detention centres to be closed, and for refugees and asylum seekers to get a fair hearing. 
  • Take part in the Movement for Justice letter-writing campaign to ask for individual migrants not to be deported (this is often successful)
  • Take part in the monthly demonstrations outside Campsfield, organised by the Close Campsfield campaign. 12 noon, every last Saturday of the month.
  • Donate to Close Campsfield
  • Volunteer for the Bail Observation Project.
  • Tell everyone you know about this massive injustice. Get them involved too.

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