Kuka on the Parliamentary Inquiry

Image courtesy of Freed Voices

This post was written by Ivo Kuka, who has experienced immigration detention.  His testimony was provided for Detention Action‘s forthcoming annual report.

In 2008, the Independent Asylum Commission did an assessment of the UK’s asylum system. They decided it was time for a ‘root and branch review’.

I arrived in the UK in 2012 and I was put on the Detained Fast Track after I claimed asylum. My time in at Harmondsworth detention centre was hell. It was mental torture. I suffered greatly. If the conditions I experienced were after four years of progress, then the situation back in 2008 must have been unimaginably bad. It is clear the ‘root and branch review’ stayed on paper. Its recommendations were ignored. And the people who would have been affected by those recommendations – people like me – were forgotten.

And that is why I have mixed feelings about the ongoing Parliamentary Inquiry on Detention.

In many ways, the Inquiry is a great step forward. It is different to other investigations because it looks at detention as a whole – not just children in detention, or the Detained Fast Track, or legal access. This is important because detention in the UK is an industry. Everything is connected. From bad decision making to poorly trained staff. From safeguards that don’t work to rubbish healthcare. From violent removals to greedy private investors. It is a spider-web. I hope this Inquiry can show how these are all linked together.

This Inquiry has also put people like me, with experiences of detention, at the centre. It is easy to make decisions that impact people you never have to see. Or whose stories you don’t have to hear. But it is much more difficult when you must look those people in the eye and listen to the way that detention ruined their lives. I was there at the first evidence session in Parliament in July. I could see how shaken the cross-party panel of Parliamentarians were listening to people tell their stories.

It was important for the MPs to listen but it was also important for us to speak out and not be silenced by the Home Office. For this Inquiry to be a success, it needs to involve the detainee and ex-detainee’s voice at every stage. We are experts-by-experience. They need to take on our testimonies but they also need to take on our recommendations.

What scares me is the thought that this will just be another report. Like the one in 2008. And all the Independent Monitoring Board reports. And all the reports from the Independent Chief Inspectors. And all the reports from charities and NGOs. I am worried it will also just stay on paper. I am worried there will be no action. Because the truth is that we already have lots of evidence to make an informed decision.

How many more deaths in detention before we realise we need a change? How many more mental breakdowns? How many more people on hunger-strike? How many more self-harmers? How many more cases of sexual harassment? How many families broken? How many more lives ruined?

I have a friend who gave evidence in the first oral session. He is a survivor of torture and was trafficked as a child. He has been diagnosed with PTSD and doctors have told the Home Office many times he should not be in detention. He has been locked away for over three years. On no charge.

I hope that for him, and others like him still in detention, this Inquiry will end up being more than just a nice read. I hope it will bring real change.

3 Replies to “Kuka on the Parliamentary Inquiry”

  1. Ivo writes and speaks intelligently from the heart and from his own experience of the dysfunctional system, which is the UK asylum system. He and other immigration detainees must be listened to not only by NGOs and the APPG inquiry but by the Home Office. I suggest that he be invited to be a member of the review body, which surely must be set up immediately after the inquiry to make recommendations for changes to the present system. If travel expenses were paid, he could accept such an invitation.

    1. I concur with comments above yet at the same time part of me is screaming .. must be listened to by the Home Office. How does one turn a black sky blue? That is the crux of the problem. A NON LISTENING NON CARING OVERLY ENDOWED WITH POWERS HOME OFFICE. THEY DONT LISTEN THEY JUST CHURN OUT REMOVALS AND DEPORTATIONS! WITH DRACONIAN CUTS TO LEGAL AID THEIR NARRATIVE AND THEIR SO CALLED HUMAN ERRORS ARE NOT CHALLENGED

  2. 15 months on and I see a little progress. The APPG inquiry led by Sarah Teather did not od back in its report and the recommendations eg a time limit of 28 days on all administrative detention, no detention at all for vulnerable classes of people, a much reduced detention estate with far fewer taken into detention and for shorter periods and improved conditions in all IRCs. The Shaw report, which followed, seems to be more radical than we expected though not as helpful as the APPG inquiry report. Now yet again we await action from the Government but the second reading of the Immigration Bill in the Commons was not encouraging. The crucial amendment 32, which would effectively have brought in a time limit of max.28 days, was not taken to the vote and therefore lost. WHY??? Now we have ust the Lords to turn to and there are well over 200 amendments tabled for their debate on the Bill. 216 to 218 are the crucial ones re. detention time limit and bail. Please (if anyone is still reading this) please ask your Lord (or all of them if you have the stamina) to support amendments 216 to 218. Can we end indefinite detention under this Government? s

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