Week 4: Prisons and Short Term Holding Facilities

We’re almost halfway through #Unlocked17. From all over the UK, you’ve been tweeting, writing and sharing your selfies to tell us how you feel about detention, and to help spread the word about Unlocking Detention. Thank you!

Prisons and short-term holding facilities

From 6-12 November, #Unlocked17 focused on the hundreds of people who are detained in prisons and short-term holding facilities across the UK.

Writing on the #Unlocked17 blog this week, Ali McGinley of AVID said this represents “one of the most hidden corners of the detention system“. Those held in prisons under immigration powers represent around 15-20% of the detained population in the UK, and yet – because they are excluded from official statistics – we know little about them: where they are, how long they are held, what happens to them after they leave.

Drawing on extracts of letters sent to AVID by those detained in prisons, the blog illuminates their isolation, and the particular challenges they face in accessing justice and support and making their voices heard. In the words of one person, held in prison: “I was not imprisoned by courts of law…..I have been detained for five months and no one has even thought of me or visited me.”

Short-term holding facilities

We also visited the UK’s two residential short-term holding facilities, where people can be held for up to a week: Pennine House (Manchester) and Larne House (Northern Ireland).

Also this week:

Sam, of #FreedVoices, compared his experience of prison and detention:

I was in prison for three years and nine months.

I was in detention for seven months and they were the hardest months of my whole life. The trauma of detention will stay with me with me forever. It is indefinite.”

Nobody’s story

It is not just “model” asylum seekers who find themselves in detention: people from all sorts of experiences and life trajectories get incarcerated because they do not have a right type of passport or visa. This week, Isabel Lima shared the true story of Nobody, a man with ‘many qualities and faults’ who finds himself in limbo.

“Do you think this is fair?”

In the final blog of the week, Eiri Ohtani, Project Director of the Detention Forum, recounted a recent visit to Yarl’s Wood with Heather Jones, who has been visiting for many years:

“I explained my job to Alice and asked her if there was anything she wanted me to convey to the government, politicians and people who don’t know anything about immigration detention.

Alice thought about this for a while. I saw her push her carefully braided hair back behind her ears. ‘I have one question for them,’ she said. I inched towards her not to miss her words. Alice said quietly: ‘Do you think this is fair?’.”

Thanks to all those individuals and groups who are supporting individuals held in detention, indefinitely, all over the country.

From the end of the final blog:

“Tonight, thousands of people will be spending anxious night in the vast detention estate in this country, hidden from the public view, away from their families and separated from their friends. Alice’s single message to all of us was ‘Do you think this is fair?’.

We are not giving up. Join us.”

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