British Justice?

British Justice | Unlocked19

You come here to study and find yourself in immigration detention – that’s what has happened to some of the so-called TOEIC students, international students wrongly accused of cheating in 2014. They are being supported by Migrant Voice to campaign to clear their names. As part of Unlocking Detention, they shared with us their experiences of immigration detention and views of British justice. The blog was written by Eiri Ohtani, @EiriOhtani

It’s midway through the discussion about the benefits of a solidarity group, when A suddenly says:

‘Well, if there was any positive thing about this campaign, I got my mum’s trust back because of it. Because the campaign exists, she now believes that this was really happening to me and I wasn’t lying to her.’ 

Another member of the group, B, adds by way of clarification: ‘Many people in our countries absolutely believe in British justice, and never imagine that there could be injustice under the British system. When we tell them we are being wrongly accused (by the Home Office), they think we must be lying.’

I am meeting a group of international students who have been accused of cheating on their English tests by the Home Office and have had their student visas annulled. They are fighting to clear their names and get their lives back on track. 

The Home Office failed to ensure innocent people were not wrongly deported in an operation which saw more than 2,400 students removed from the country as a result of cheating allegations in English language tests, a major report has found.

The National Audit Office (NAO) launched an investigation earlier this year after it emerged almost 34,000 international students had been accused of cheating in English language tests, and with no proper right to challenge the decision, told they had no right to stay in the UK.

They were targeted after an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama in 2014 exposed systematic cheating at some colleges where candidates sat the Test of English for International Communication (Toeic), one of several that overseas students can sit to prove their English language proficiency, a visa requirement.

Home Office failed to ensure innocent students were not wrongly detained in cheating scandal, report finds | The Independent, 24/05/2019

Migrant Voice, ‘a migrant-led organisation empowering migrants to speak out, challenge perceptions and change public debate’, supports the group. With guidance from its tenacious director, Nazek Ramadan, and her colleagues, the student group managed to draw media attention to their struggle and secured some limited traction from the Home Office and the Home Secretary. (See the list of further reading at the end of the blog for more information.)

The consequences of the Home Office accusations have been severe. Some of the students in the group have found themselves locked up in immigration detention, after heavy-handed raids at home. Some have already been removed or simply given up. Legal fees for appeals are expensive and, of course, not everyone can afford it. These are some of the costs of seeking justice, and a somewhat familiar tale for people who have been wronged by the Home Office. 

‘Preparing for immigration detention’

People willing to ‘do something’ about immigration detention often want to do something in detention centres.  But there is a huge unmet need that is not often talked about: preparing people for immigration detention. That’s what I have come to do at Migrant Voice’s office. When I arrive at their campaign meeting on the hottest day in late July, there is frustration in the room. Although a recent APPG report recommended a moratorium on enforcement for students who are in the appeal process, the students are still at risk of detention and removal.  Many must regularly report to the Home Office, each time not knowing whether they will be able to return home or be detained. 

Explaining immigration detention to a group of anxious people is emotionally taxing. Reading from a script that says ‘27,000 people are detained every year’ makes you feel as though you are playing a part in the government’s deliberate plot to paralyse people with fear. Unlike immigration detention centres, this fear is invisible and renders invisible the vast numbers of individuals, families or groups dispersed across the UK who live in fear of immigration detention. It takes a huge psychological toll on everyone. 

Luckily, I have Right to Remain’s zine with me, a vital resource and the last line of defence for communities threatened with detention. Written with ‘experts-by-experience’ who were themselves detained, the zine goes beyond equipping people with practical advice: it guides them into developing a mutual support system that can be relied upon as a safeguard. Though even talking about the threat of detention in a safe space is hard, it gives a little boost to their sense of solidarity and togetherness.

https://twitter.com/MigrantVoiceUK/status/1154408244875583488?s=20

Having migrants’ variety of voices heard and listened to

In an otherwise bleak space, Migrant Voice and others’ facilitating role in this recent shift towards the emergence of grassroot solidarity groups gives me some small hope. As a migrant myself, it’s a relief to see increasing numbers of fellow migrants taking the lead in the fight against the UK government’s Hostile Environment policy. It is powerful, and also disruptive in a good way, when the people who are directly affected, rather than professional NGO staff, take centre stage.

Nazek says “When the students first came to us, we found it hard to believe that this kind of injustice could be happening in the UK today. We felt so strongly about it that we had to do what we could. A big part of that has been providing a space for them to come and speak and be listened to, and to be valued and respected for the people who they are – then working with them to tell their stories in a way anyone can understand. We’ve been calling for a very simple solution – for all these students to have the chance to sit a new test. If they pass, they should get their visa back and be allowed to restart their lives.”

At a follow-up meeting, we have more time for in-depth discussions about the solidarity and shared experiences of the group in the face of the threat of immigration detention. The students are frustrated by the lack of attention given to their plight by the general public. At one point, someone points out ‘Imagine this was happening to Americans, Europeans, white migrants…’. His voice trails off and we become silent. The group members are composed of Commonwealth nationals, from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, previously colonised by Britain. It is a thought that has crossed my mind too – immigration laws and rules, after all, stem from the society which is underpinned by often unacknowledged racial hierarchy.

I suspect there are probably additional explanations for this relative lack of attention. The students are no doubt victims of injustice but they do not fit the accepted stereotype of the victim: rather than appearing vulnerable, powerless, voiceless, the students are vocal and articulate. Some of them come from relatively well-off families, well-off enough to be able to pay for education in the UK. I wonder if that unspoken class element makes it hard for the general public to ‘place’ them in their imaginary of migrants.

Another possible complication is that while they are here in the UK and are migrants (though some might object that international students are not migrants – I have been told that before), they wanted to be here only temporarily, usually to get qualifications, and many can’t wait to go back home or somewhere else. But they are stuck, in limbo, because without the qualifications they have set out to obtain here, they cannot move onto their next stage of their life plan. How we understand, interact and build relationships with people who are temporarily here as migrants on their own volition but who wish to see their lives unfolding somewhere else is not something we’ve often talked about or dealt with in migration space. We don’t have a wide enough range of vocabularies to describe changing patterns of human mobility and vastly different motives that drive people to move – yet.

Image of Britain – before and after immigration detention

We talked about how the students had felt when they first arrived in the UK and their overwhelmingly positive feelings. Perhaps their words might strike some as naïve or even banal, but they still reminded me of a sense of hope many people have when they move, something I have completely forgotten about. Having worked in this area far too long, I accept I am too jaded. However, I, too, did have some sense of hope when I first arrived in Germany, and then when, after a few years, moved to London, almost 30 years ago. We must be careful though to recognise that every person’s hope is unique and, more importantly, human mobility does not always come with hope. Mine was a result of a myriad of privileges and opportunities that I was born into. Others have no choice but to hope when they move, because staying where they are is not an option.

 

Of course, these ideas were shattered when they were accused of fraud and found themselves fighting to clear their names or thrown into immigration detention.

British Justice? | Unlocked19

 

One of the most profound impacts of their experience is strained family relationships. Many were caught off guard by their families’ utter refusals to believe their stories, because of their unshakeable trust in the British system. 

When they said we’d take you to detention, I thought it would be like a house. But it was a prison.’

B says he initially wanted to go to the US or Canada to study. It was his father, who has high regard for the UK’s democracy and parliament, who insisted on the UK as his son’s educational destination. After their initial disbelief at what had happened to his son, B’s parents are now supportive of the campaign. His father says ‘If you believe that you didn’t do anything wrong, you must finish this battle before coming back. It is about your future – otherwise you need to carry this blame the rest of your life.’  His mother however has no knowledge of the fact that he was in detention: she has been shielded from it, B says. 

‘I thought in Britain, detention should be something different. It’s not something that should be happening here.’

C confesses that when he was initially detained, he felt a tinge of excitement because nobody in his family had ever been to prison. It was when he phoned his brother and he started crying as he told him what had happened that the reality dawned on him. Eventually the rest of the family found out and their response was not exactly encouraging: ‘If this is happening, you are not coming back to our house’. C adds ‘My family lives in a small village, I don’t come from an urban area. People there don’t understand what English language test is or what the Home Office does, but they do understand the word ‘fraud’’.

‘They said ‘This is the room’, I thought where is the bed? It was just a mattress. The toilet was in the same cell, with no privacy.’

It turns out that they are the lucky ones. Some have been completely disowned by their families, who say, ‘They have brought shame on us and used all the family’s fortune.’  I am told of one of their members, who has returned to his home country, is street homeless as his family has completely rejected him.  

I ask about their huge diaspora communities in the UK? Experiences have been mixed and complicated. ‘I was disappointed when Imam said to me, why are you staying here? With your children? His attitude was negative.’ ‘I was told ‘You are a burden on my country.’ They didn’t believe what happened to us at first’.

Is your solidarity borderless?

Their struggle continues and the campaign has provided a platform to advocate for themselves. Pooling their knowledge and experience has helped the campaign to find direction and given strength to the members of the group to carry on. 

D talks about how she met the others for the first time at the parliamentary event:

I saw them at the event and was surprised. There were these people who seemed to know what they are talking about and they knew each other. I introduced myself and joined the group. Before, I was just alone and had no family or friends to speak to share the worry. After meeting them, now I have a hope.’

C adds ‘The second time I was in detention, as a team you got me out, you got me released after a few days. The first time I was in detention, I was there over 100 days.’ 

Hearing this, D points at another member with a smile. ‘I now text you, when I go signing (to the reporting centre). We support each other.’

Looking back on parliamentary lobbying they have done, B says, ‘The fact that we have been able to apply pressure to the government is giving us hope. Lots of people say Parliamentarians can’t do anything, but we created this opportunity now. We can do this.’

The group is aware that their India-Bangladesh-Pakistan solidarity group doesn’t necessarily mirror the countries’ not so straightforward diplomatic relationships with each other. Someone says with a laugh, ‘If not for our experience here in the UK, you probably wouldn’t have seen some of us working together like this.’ This comment leads to other interesting topics that I wish I had more time to delve into. What do they think of the members of their diaspora community working for immigration enforcement, locking you up, assessing your cases and working at the reporting centres? What’s their views of Sajid Javid and Priti Patel, whose families have immigrant background? 

I leave the room wondering what stories they will be telling others about British justice and immigration detention when they win their battles and return home. Another question that lingers in my mind was whether these groups’ newly found solidarity will be extended to other groups of migrants and communities also experiencing injustice, regardless of their immigration status or other circumstances. Truly borderless solidarity is the only tool we might have for a truly just and humane world – but it still feels elusive. 

Further reading:

  • You can order Right to Remain’s immigration detention zine from their webpage. Highly recommended! 
  • Jan 2019: Financial Times long read about the issue and campaign
  • Mar 2019: ITV News interviews with students affected and Stephen Timms
  • May 2019: Amelia Gentleman interview with Raja Noman 
  • May 2019: Independent article on the damning National Audit Office report on the issue (the video at the top is a clip from “Inquisition”, the film about the TOEIC students)
  • July 2019: Independent article on the report by the APPG on TOEIC, which exposed some very concerning information about the Home Office actions on this matter in 2014
  • September 2019: Mirror article about the report by the Public Accounts Committee, which described the Govt’s handling of the matter as “shameful”

When hope is in short supply

The Friendship Project | Unlocked19

Collaboration is all the rage, particularly among groups and charitable foundations who are looking for the magic solution that can achieve social justice – but what does it mean? How do we recognise and address cultural differences which exist between different groups, their priorities and approaches to change making? This blog is based on the debates and conversations that some of the Unlocking Detention team had while preparing for #Unlocked19. Eiri Ohtani is the Project Director of The Detention Forum. She tweets at @EiriOhtani

Before summer, a group I had never heard about got in touch with the Detention Forum over Twitter. They said they would like to run workshops with people to create handmade butterflies for people in immigration detention, to raise awareness, to show they care and build solidarity. Would the Detention Forum like to collaborate? 

I was sceptical, to say the least. I famously delegated my home economics assignment of making a skirt to my grandmother (“I will make sure that the stitches are uneven, so your teacher won’t notice that I did this”, she helpfully said) – I had no interest in sewing. And generally, my lexicon doesn’t include fluffy stuff like butterflies. Why on earth make pretty butterflies to challenge immigration detention, which should be won by the sheer strength of our rational and moral arguments?  

Seeking change through different routes

But our rationality demands that we keep an eye open for any new avenues that can trigger the change we desire. Our morality forces us not to turn away from the fact that immigration detention continues to exist, as a practice and as a structural reality. There is, of course, a growing momentum for change, but there is also a sense that whatever we as advocates, campaigners or activists have been doing hasn’t been enough. It is our responsibility to put our personal feelings aside and stay open-minded. Personal attachment to activities that feel comfortable can distort and limit what really needs to be done. So, with that spirit of adventure, I set out to stare deeply into my prejudices, and begin to unpack how I am culturally conditioned to approach my own work. 

This action planned by The Friend Ship combines quietly ruminative craftivism and an invocation of an image of hope. Quietness, contemplation and the butterfly are probably the polar opposite of a set of emotions and approaches of our textbook anti-immigration detention activities. What can craftivism and the butterfly do for anti-immigration detention campaigns? 

The Friendship Project | Unlocked19

First port of call was a podcast by Sarah Corbett of Craftivist Collective. Corbett describes craftivism as a considerate, compassionate and emphatic act of protest. It is built on the philosophy that if we want the world to be beautiful, kind and just, our activism has to mirror that. In that physical act of making craft, which by necessity calls for carefulness and bodily engagement with material, activists meaningfully and holistically engage with the problem at stake and try to advance solutions. 

Corbett says something provocative about our propensity to name and shame the perpetrators and angrily demand that they do what we want them toShe calls out the violence that sometimes creeps into the language of activism and questions whether such a polarising approach is the best way for transformation in the long-run. Do we believe that change happens by force or by desire (i.e. desire to change)?  We often discuss this in my circle of close colleagues but opinions remain divided.  

As Corbett herself acknowledges, other forms of activism such as protests, petitions, ‘email your MP’ actions for example, do have roles to play in bringing about change. They can draw attention to the issue quickly, can bring people together to build on their common concern and articulate their demand. But she also patiently, and in my view rightfully, points out that thoughtfulness is also absolutely necessary if we take ethics seriously. There is an argument that craftivism can foster an inquiring mind that critically investigates how collectively we can be part of the world we desire and hope for.  

Communicating around hope?

However, hope gets a bad press in some quarters within our circle too. Our mode operandi and prevailing wisdom is that unless we continue to fuel righteous anger by reinforcing and reiterating  how terrible everything is and how it’s only getting worse, people will stop paying attention to the problem. Even when there is a glimmer of hope or something is improving, it can be hard to vocalise it due to a fear that it will look out of alignment from the rest of the community. (If you are interested in hope-based communications, have a look at this webpage by Thomas Coombs.) 

In that context, the image of a butterfly is also jarring – or is it? In the USA, where its unique and well-organised migrant justice movement led by undocumented migrants has long been an inspiration for many in the UK, the butterfly came to defiantly symbolise migrants’ hope for the future under the banner of “Migration Is Beautiful” in 2012. 

The idea was conceived by Favianna Rodriguez, an artist-activist, who is also CultureStrike’s Executive Director. The butterfly image and tagline quickly emerged as an approachable way to reimagine borders as permeable rather than militarized, reinvigorating a metaphor that many migrants have looked to for generations.’

In the film ‘Migration Is Beautiful’ produced by Pharrell Williams, Rodriguez shows how the butterfly, symbolising freedom, hope, possibilities and beauty, became a focal point for rallies and protests by communities that were being torn apart by ever increasing immigration enforcement and threats of deportation. The butterfly image was used on flyers, posters and even as an eye-catching protest costume that drew in people in a way that words and speeches alone cannot. 

Roberto Lavato, writer and strategist, interviewed in the film explains why symbols are important: “We are not machines. We can’t just be programmed to do things. We have to have meanings and understanding that leads to action.” And perhaps butterflies stir us to act in a way that no briefing paper, policy document, meeting, statement or conference can do. 

The Friend Ship’s choice of the image of the butterfly perhaps follows the logic of the US strand of migration justice movement. Its quiet symbolism of hope offers a potent counter-narrative to immigration detention, where, one expert-by-experience said ‘Hope goes to die’. Reading through feedback from the Butterfly Effect workshops at Latitude Festival in July 2019 where these butterflies were made, it’s clear this burst of craftivism left a profound impression on people who made them and touched the way they see the world. 

‘So we were not abandoned.’

Returning to my original question, is this the right way to approach immigration detention? My honest answer is, I still don’t know. It probably depends on the context, people involved and what happens next. What I do know is that that the world we want to see, where migration justice does exist, is yet to be born and we just don’t know how we can make it happen – and we should be prepared to try whatever the means available that can ease that process of transformation. 

Just as I was about to finish writing this blog, I received an email from Emma Skeet, who runs The Friend Ship. She said: ‘I posted 200 butterflies to Brook House today (they had 160 detainees when I last enquired but I sent more in case more had arrived. We had contributions from people aged 5-75 years old through workshops at Latitude, schools, University of East Anglia student STAR action group, and community groups.’

We don’t know whether these butterflies will in fact reach people in the detention centre, or what their response might be. Will they know that strangers paused, reflected on the human cost of immigration detention and wished to send hope that change is possible? Will they dismiss these butterflies, as I might have done, as a gesture of superficial sympathy, when what people in detention really want is tangible freedom? 

Here, I take strength from a little tale someone I had never met generously told me some time ago. I don’t even know the person’s gender, let alone name or nationality but they said that they had been detained in a detention centre in the middle of quiet woodlands somewhere, but not in the UK. Only after release, they found out that there was a group of people standing on the other side of the wall, every month, to protest against detention. They said, in closing this little tale, ‘So we were not abandoned.’

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And here’s Emma’s initial response to the blog. What’s your response?

‘Dear Eiri,

Your article is great – really interesting. The only thing I would change is it puts forward artivism and political action as opposing options. I think an important point is not to ask ‘is this the right way to tackle detention reform’ but to emphasise the importance of different ways of raising awareness working alongside each other – not as alternatives or a choice of which is the best way. Surely all activity which raises awareness of, and support for, the issue is welcome? One important point to make, which shows how any activity which helps is needed, is that the majority of the general public (festival goers from teenagers to adults), parents at Norwich Schools of Sanctuary workshops and University students, who helped make the butterflies did not know that the UK had indefinite detention or how to act on this injustice. Many people feel overwhelmed by the huge array of social, environmental and political injustices in the world and do not feel able to help make a difference. Artivism provides a way in. A way to take time to talk and learn about an issue while creating something to raise awareness and potentially share with those who we do not feel sorry for, pity or see as victims but rather send symbols of solidarity and hope as, in another life it could be you or it could be me. And I know I would want both, activists fighting for change on the political agenda to establish a new way of handling immigration with dignity and respect, but also to know ordinary people were thinking of me.

 Best wishes,

Emma’

 

Further reading

About craftivism:

About the butterfly and migration justice:

  • CultureStrike’s webpage on ‘Migration is Beautiful’
  • ‘What do butterflies have to do with open borders? Migration is Beautiful’ by John Lee Read.
  • ‘Monarch butterflies a lesson in sustainability, social justice’ by UIC Today Read.

Thinking about how positive change can happen:

  • Becoming Unstuck With Relational Activism’ by Becca Dove & Tim Fisher Read.
  • ‘From slacktivism to ‘feel-good’ protests, activism is broken: Here’s how to fix it’ By Antony Funnell for Future Tense Read.
  • ‘Brain research suggests emphasizing human rights abuses may perpetuate them’ By: Laura Ligouri Read.
  • ‘A Guide to Hope-based Communications’ by OpenGlobalRights Read.

 

Impressions of Morton Hall 

Morton Hall | Unlocked19

Morton Hall immigration detention centre is one of the lesser known centres. This blog shares some of the impressions of this particular detention centre which are hard to capture by simply reading monitoring reports.  Ali McGinely is Director of AVID, the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, and one of the Coordination Group members of the Detention Forum. Eiri Ohtani is Project Director of the Detention Forum. Ali and Eiri have worked closely together over 10 years, initially sharing a small office room together! 

By Ali McGinley and Eiri Ohtani 

Access to places of detention is limited, either by their isolated location, the barbed wire that surrounds many of them, or by security rules that make visiting seem as though you’re entering a prison.  By contrast, if you visit the website of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), you will find a rich source of data on daily life in detention in the very detailed, and in some ways exacting, reports of their inspections of immigration detention centres.  Photographs in the reports give us a glimpse of what it looks like inside: they are all pretty disturbing, heightened by that clash of colour schemes only found in institutional settings.  Monitoring reports are also produced annually by the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB).

It is rare for any country to have two statutory bodies which monitor immigration detention: often colleagues outside the UK, who face great difficulties obtaining detention related data, envy us for it. While HMIP and IMB’s inspection frameworks and methodologies are different, these official reports, put together, provide a degree of transparency about how Morton Hall is run and what it is like. 

For many for whom immigrate detention is an abstract concept, the detention centres might appear indistinguishable from one another.  But Morton Hall stands out. For one thing, it is the only remaining centre run by HM Prison Service. The fact that other detention centres are run by private security companies with profit motives rightly attracts much criticism. It is hard to know whether this direct connection to prisons makes any difference to public perceptions of the place. But there are certain differences we do notice: for example, there is more information in the public domain about the costs, and the way in which it is run. 

Isolation

What the reports cannot convey, however, is the sense of isolation that dominates Morton Hall. Located in Lincolnshire, the closest village is Swinderby, with 773 residents. Morton Hall very much ‘feels’ like a prison, both in its infrastructure and the regime followed inside. Of course, all detention centres feel like prisons inside – there is no doubt about that. But Morton Hall – like Dover and the Verne which have since closed down – actually look like prisons from outside too.  You can see this as you approach the centre from far away, unlike the purpose-built centres beside the airports in the south. In fact, it was an RAF base, until 1985 when it became a prison, and an IRC in 2011. 

The isolation is exacerbated by the limited visiting hours, often less than three hours a day. It is good to see that this isolation is recognised and attempts made to reduce it by providing a free taxi service to and from Lincoln and Newark rail stations, although you have to book it 24 hours in advance. Needless to say, individuals’ experiences of Morton Hall are also hard to capture in these reports, but we have collected vivid testimonies of Morton Hall which might help to increase people’s understanding of the place. 

 

Morton Hall | Unlocked19
Voices from Morton Hall (Unlocked14) – In this blog post, two people currently detained in Morton Hall detention centre tell Leeds No Borders about their experiences. Click on the image to read.

 

Morton Hall | Unlocked19
“This is mental torture after prison and no respect for humanity” (Unlocked14) – This post was written by the Morton Hall Detainee Visitor Group (MHDVG). 

Inside Morton Hall, all the rooms other than the induction wing are single rooms, whereas most other centres are shared rooms. Morton Hall is the only detention centre to outsource its welfare provision, which is run by Lincolnshire Action Trust. Previously, this welfare service, along with provision for visits and the visits hall, had been delivered by a local organisation called Children’s Links. 

‘Off the radar’

There is often speculation that Morton Hall is used as a ‘testing ground’ for pilot projects, because of its physical distance from the other centres, and because it is the only centre that is publicly run. These pilots have included screening for people with a learning disability, or trying out new approaches to monitoring those at risk of self-harm (ACDT). 

There is also speculation, commonly discussed but with no concrete evidence that we are aware of,  that people deemed ‘problematic’ in the widest sense – whether for health reasons, behaviour, or perhaps complex cases – are sent to Morton Hall. 

Morton Hall’s isolation has always meant that it feels much more ‘off the radar’ in so many different ways.  The sense of being ‘off the radar’ can be physically experienced when you visit. AVID, the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, have been working to support people in Morton Hall since it opened.  AVID visited Morton Hall when it was still a women’s prison, during its conversion to a detention centre. Ali McGinley, Director of AVID, says that she was shocked to see the physical security dramatically increase during that time. “…there are a lot of external grounds and garden space at Morton Hall, and this was all sectioned off with high fences so that in case of disruption, areas can be ‘sealed’ for safety. This means that more barbed wire was put up at Morton Hall when it became a detention centre, than there had ever been when it was a women’s prison.” 

AVID member Morton Hall Detainee Visitors Group, based in Nottingham and with a branch in Lincoln, are a lively, dynamic group of volunteers who provide befriending, support and practical advice to people inside.  AVID has been contacted by people from Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester or even further to ask about the centre and what they can do to help those locked up there. 

What is the future for Morton Hall?

The visitors group members usually have to drive. Despite the free taxi service, if you are relying on public transport it is very difficult to get to. It can feel very dark as you the drive up a long path surrounded by trees. (You can see for yourself on Googlemap’s Street View of the area).  There are far fewer charitable groups going in and out of Morton Hall, unlike say the centres around London, which makes the support of the visitors’ group and others such as BID, who also make the journey there, particularly important. 

Unlike the south east centres and those near airports, there is far less media interest, or at least far less national media coverage.  Often major events at Morton Hall go very much unnoticed, unless someone tragically dies at the centre or when serious disturbances occur. But, although it does not have a public ‘profile’ such as Yarl’s Wood or, lately, Brook House, people have not forgotten about Morton Hall.  There are frequent demonstrations outside Morton Hall, such as the one organised recently by groups various groups. A local newspaper regularly reports on these demonstrations, bringing much needed public attention to the plight of men who are locked indefinitely at Morton Hall. 

Morton Hall remains pretty unique within the UK’s detention system. Publicly run, geographically detached from the rest of the system, and physically isolated. Since the closures of Haslar, the Verne and Dover detention centres, it is the last detention centre to be run by the Prison Service. Which prompts the question: what is the future for Morton Hall?