The Verne detention centre, before it was closed.

‘The fight is in the street’ – our reflections on #Unlocked17

As our volunteers plan for the Detention Forum’s work for 2018, here are some more reflections on #Unlocked17.

Here’s Gareth, with his message!

Gareth said: “Every blog I read moved me in one way or another; out of all those ’Nobody’ was incredibly powerful but Five Guys sent my head spinning. 

Miska writes brilliantly; in just a few words he paints a very clear and graphic picture of each of the five people. Despite the extreme nature of the circumstances, somehow his writing is very matter of fact. Maybe that’s because he could relate directly to the issues and emotions that affected each of five. 

Through his account of these situations, Miska also explains what he was dealing with.

Miska’s account of his ‘big’ bother’s plight hit me the most. As a twin myself, I was staggered by how Miska could write so objectively about his bother’s attempted suicide and deportation.
 
I don’t know whether recording that helped Miska deal with the trauma, but I hope so. 

I wondered how I would have felt in Miska’s shoes during his final meet with his brother: “That handshake was the hardest moment in my life. I haven’t seen him again since” 

Romany (left) and Alice after the parliamentary meeting we organised.

Romany said: “I chose the Unlocked article written by ‘Jose’ of the freed voices group titled ‘Walls of resistance’. It is an incredibly personal account, giving detail of how experiencing detention has made him increasingly political and the way in which this is reflected in the images he displays on his wall. The detail he gives each picture brings up many themes of the Unlocked campaign.

What stuck out for me from the article was the spirit and courage that runs throughout the entire article. It highlights the different ways to resist the oppression of the system, on both a personal/internal level and more systemically. He speaks about how music helped him to survive and finding the strength mentally within himself; ‘I want to get violent with my words, with my struggle, but not necessarily with my body’. His determination continues when he talks about wanting to change the system, on the photo of Karl Marx: ‘It’s more a reminder that it is important to hold on to an idea about how society could, and should, be better.‘

The last thing that I think perfectly resonates with the Unlocked17 campaign is in relation to ‘The Demonstration’ which he says reminds him that ‘the fight is in the street’. The whole #Unlocked17 campaign has been trying to encourage people to fight for the change; he summarises this eloquently as he states ‘The responsibility for the human disgrace of detention must be shared’. Once again, it shows the necessity for expert-by-experience’s involvement in the struggle for detention reform.”

Finally, Eiri said: “That each story is told through a unique voice is what’s captivating about #Unlocked17 blog collection. So it’s hard to pick one from it, but the one that personally stood out for me this year was Ijeoma’s piece, in which she describes what happened when she was detained as a child and its aftereffect. She talks about how it took her almost 10 years before she was able to return to her normal self after detention.

Before #Unlocked17 started, I was standing in an empty canteen in since-then closed the Vern detention centre, helping a queue of men seeking advice. One man, he had the saddest eyes, looked at me, lifted a plastic bag full of paperwork and said ‘There must have been a mistake.’ He was only detained a few days ago, when he was least expecting it.

I woke up from a dream the following morning, hearing his words again. Yes, there must have been a mistake indeed. What sort of mistake are we making, as a society, treating people like this?

Reading Ijeoma’s piece, the man’s words returned to me. If it took her Ijeoma 10 years to recover, how many years will it take, as a society, to recover this practice of mass, indefinite, detention of migrants? What story will Ijeoma, half my age, be telling others about our society in the future? What choices will we be making to undo this mistake? And what actions will be taking for the story of our future?”

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