Do you know what immigration detention is? Do you know what it feels like to be locked up in a prison-like building, not knowing when you are going to be released? Do you know what this does to human beings, their families and communities?
Immigration detention is one of the biggest human rights scandals in the UK. The majority of people in the UK remain completely oblivious to what immigration detention is, to the fact that people can be detained indefinitely, and to how damaging it is for those affected. Many have been campaigning against it, yet the pace of change is slow.
The simple truth is this. Unless you have been detained, or you know somebody who is, you are very unlikely to ever visit an immigration detention centre, know where they are, or be able to imagine what it is like to be locked inside without knowing when you will be released. And unless you know someone who is at risk of detention, you are unlikely to grasp the depth of fear that grips people who need to report regularly to the Home Office.
Unlocking Detention shines a spotlight on the hidden world of immigration detention. This ‘virtual tour’ of the immigration detention estate uses Twitter, Facebook and a website to ‘unlock’ the gates of immigration detention centres. This year’s ‘tour’ runs from 11 November to 18 December 2019.
Each week, Unlocking Detention ‘visits’ one of the UK’s detention centres. We hear from people who have been detained there, volunteer visitors, NGOs, campaigners and the families, friends, neighbours and communities over whom detention casts its long shadows. We also want to hear from you – what you think about immigration detention and what you are doing to challenge it.
More about immigration detention in the UK
The UK is the only country in Europe that does not have a maximum time limit on how long someone can be detained. Indefinite detention has a severe, damaging impact on those who are subjected to it. In the 12 months up to July 2019, 24,052 people entered the detention estate for. Some are detained for months, and even years.
Many people are speaking up against this inhumane practice. For example, Freed Voices is a group of experts-by-experience who have collectively lost over 20 years of their lives to immigration detention. Gabriel of Freed Voices describes his experience this way: “Indefinite detention is a torture, it melts your brain. I’ve seen intelligent people forget how to write their names inside.”
Michael of Freed Voices adds: “There have been many times when I’ve been in a room with decision-makers or with MPs or ‘detention policy experts’. I am always amazed about how little they actually understand about the reality of detention and its impacts. It is alarming. It’s like a group of old men making policies about abortion.”
People held in immigration detention are isolated and hard-to-reach. They may be held in a centre (in prison-like conditions) hundreds of miles from where they were living, far from any city, with no direct public transport available. The system isolates people, and detention as a policy issue is often very remote from the minds of most members of the public. We need your help to fight this “out of sight, out of mind” policy. People should be in the community, not in detention.
The Detention Forum is a network of organisations challenging the UK’s use of immigration detention. We want to see a humane and fair immigration system, including a time limit on immigration detention and much wider use of community-based alternatives to detention, to stop the harm of immigration detention. Our annual social media project, Unlocking Detention, is run mainly by our volunteers. You can find more about us at www.detentionforum.org.uk