Unlocking Detention ‘visits’ Tinsley House

Last week, Unlocking Detention visited Tinsley House, possibly one of the least well-known detention centres.

We heard powerful stories of the men that Nic Eadie, director of Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group, has met over eight years of visiting and supporting people detained in Tinsley.  Many of them speak with strong London accents, or Glasgow accents, or Manchester accents: “Almost as British as me”

Before he left Tinsley House John sent me some of his writings. In them he mixed his feelings of fear and dread with those of hope and strength. He tried to remain positive, drawing on the resilience that had helped him survive war, poverty, feelings of isolation, and a drug dependency that nearly killed him. In his last note he wrote me this:

‘I love life and hopefully life agrees with me. Nobody likes the feeling of being trapped, yet we all are somehow. One way or another we’re all trapped in a situation and do not completely feel free. My name is John, a detainee at Tinsley House. I’m not trapped in here. I’m here to expand my mind and meet people of different cultures and backgrounds. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to pass through here, for I’m no longer naïve to certain people’s ways, or ignorant towards their religions and beliefs. I’ve learnt to live away from my loved ones until I see them again. And I’ll have a lot to tell them about my journey.’

We also heard from Colleen Molloy, City of Sanctuary National Development Officer, on the damage of indefinite detention.  City of Sanctuary supports the Detention Forum in calling for a time-limit on detention, and are holding their Sanctuary in Parliament event this week!

We had not intended to be political and we remain non-partisan with support from all the major political parties. However, when you connect asylum seekers and refugees with local people, inevitably relationships build. It is through these relationships, that we have learned from bitter experience about the inhumane process and painful journey that many asylum seekers experience in the bid to seek freedom and safety in the UK.

The most heart-rending and shocking experiences that our volunteers on the ground have found is that of the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers, often at the point of reporting and at the most unexpected of times.

In many dispersal areas, City of Sanctuary volunteers and befrienders have been shocked by their friends being uprooted and detained, often in remote locations. This experience has politicised them, and many of them have been motivated to campaign for their release, gaining thousands of signatures on petitions to the Home Office, raising much-needed funds for legal support and visiting their friends to bring them comfort and clothing and other necessary items. The shocking experience of visiting a detention centre has further motivated their desire to help.   Volunteers have told us “I was really shocked.  I didn’t think that could happen in Britain.  How could that happen in a democracy?”

The week’s live Q and A was quite a special one.  It was with Isa, who had been detained TWICE in Tinsley but has recently been released.

Isa described the “ticking, ticking, ticking” of the clock with no time-limit on immigration detention (yet):

Sadly, Isa is not able to enjoy his new-found freedom, because of the constant threat of being re-detained. “This is no life”

Read the full Q and A here.

 

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