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Act now to limit the injustice of immigration detention

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It is mental torture. It is unjust. It has to be changed, no matter how long it takes.” – The words of one former detainee, a member of Bristol Refugee Rights. 

 We call on all MPs to engage with the Parliamentary Inquiry in to Immigration Detention and work to improve conditions for those in detention by supporting these four recommendations, proposed by Bristol Refugee Rights and other organisations in Bristol, in line with those of the Detention Forum. 

1. There should be a maximum time limit on all detentions 

2. There should be improved judicial oversight of detention

3. All detainees should be provided with the information and support they need to protect their rights 

4. Vulnerable people should never be detained

Imagineyou arrive in the UK, having fled persecution. Perhaps you are a campaigner for human rights; maybe you dared to send your daughter to school. You have no papers to prove who you are, to carry them with you would have been dangerous. When you claim asylum you feel afraid and don’t know what to say. 

You are sent to a new part of the country. People from the Home Office interview you again and then they say your story doesn’t match up. Your case is refused and you are made homeless. 

You continue to sign in with the Home Office while you try to find new evidence to prove that your story is true. Then one day you go to your signing appointment and don’t come back. Nobody notices.

You find yourself in a detention centre. The food is inedible, you lose weight and your health deteriorates fast. Few people speak your language and those who do remind you of the very people you fled from. You spend the next few days trying to contact your lawyer. 

Then they move you again. This time you are sharing a cell with a stranger, kept inside 23 hours a day. You begin to have flashbacks of being imprisoned and tortured in your own country. You have committed no crime, but you have been locked up again. You don’t know when you will be free.

The UK has one of the largest systems of immigration detention in Europe. Shockingly, the UK has no time limit on how long asylum seekers and other migrants can be detained. Many people languish in detention centres for months, even years.

Recommendation #1: There should be a maximum time limit on all detentions 

To detain a person under the current system there is no need for a charge, a trial, a jury or even a judge. This means that someone who has committed no crime can be detained on the basis of a decision made by a civil servant for a potentially indefinite period. 

Recommendation #2: There should be improved judicial oversight of detention 

Unless a person appeals against their detention or applies for bail, they may never go before a court. Poor access to legal representation and deliberate attempts to stop detainees accessing necessary information (such as blocking websites of detainee support groups on computers in the centres) means that many detainees do not know their rights or are unable to obtain them.

Recommendation #3: All detainees should be provided with the information and support they need to protect their rights

Reports of suffering and mistreatment in detention are widespread. Levels of self-harm and suicide are shockingly high. A review by HMIP and the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration in 2012 found “little evidence of the effectiveness of…procedures, which are supposed to provide safeguards for vulnerable detainees, including those who have experienced torture and have mental illnesses.”

Recommendation #4: Vulnerable people should never be detained



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