‘Do you know what immigration detention is?’ Part 1 Told by Mrs A, expert-by-experience

As we begin this year’s Unlocking Detention tour, we are sharing this two-part series by Mrs A, submitted by her solicitor at Duncan Lewis.

We have not met Mrs A.  We have no idea who she is.  We understand that she was detained herself and wants to tell you about the secret world of immigration detention.  And here it is, her take on immigration detention in the United Kingdom.

Do you know what immigration detention is? Part 1

Is immigration detention necessary?

If you were to ask many people unfamiliar with detention whether it is necessary, many will probably say yes.  The public’s perception of detention is based on the incorrect picture painted in the media by the Home Office. This picture is one that says detention is necessary for immigration control and is only used sparingly and for the shortest time possible before removal and that detainees are treated in a humane manner.

You will also hear that detention is not the same as prison. Well, from my own experience, I am here to tell you that this could not be further from the truth.

In my experience, a high percentage of those detained have been removed from their own homes at addresses on file with The Home Office. The very fact that these people were resident at their official addresses, indicates that they appear to be attempting to normalise their status and could not normally be considered a flight risk. Others have been detained when reporting to Home Office offices as requested, again demonstrating their attempt to comply with such restrictions.

Journey to detention centres in the dark of the night

Many such detainees spend between one day and a week in police custody waiting to be transported to detention centres. The fact that detainees are held for such a long period before even arriving at a detention centre, appears to indicate that the initial process is being performed purely for administrative convenience, rather than due any immediate need for the detainees removal from the country.

Once in police custody, transfer to a detention centre usually appears to take place in the middle of the night. Again, this seems to be part of a routine shuttle of such prisoners between police stations and detention centres.

The timing of such transfers is highly disorientating as not only does it happen during the night causing stress to the detainee, but friends and relatives attempting to locate their detained loved one, are often unable to make contact or establish where they have been moved, until sometime after the event.

The detained individual will often spend several hours or more being transported across the country in a van to an unknown location, arriving in the early hours of the morning. By the time their processing at the centre is completed, it will most likely be after 5 AM.

Induction at the detention centre – ‘labour’ of £1 per hour

New detainees are inducted by a fellow detainee who is employed by the Home Office for £1 an hour. Many detainees are forced to take such work, as purchasing items from the detention centre “shop” is the only way to buy essentials such as body cream and the smallest of luxuries such as sweets, during their incarceration.

This derogatory rate of £1 is well below any minimum wage, yet detainees are being forced to do work that would otherwise be performed by paid staff, purely for the benefit of the company operating the centre.

Detainees have to work in many areas of the detention centre, including the kitchen, the laundry room and as general cleaners. In my opinion this is inhumane and effectively amounts to modern day slavery.

Part 2 of Mrs A’s story is here.

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