Just in case we needed a reminder of why we have to campaign harder than ever to end immigration detention in the UK, we got it at our migrant rights networking event in Manchester last week. Hearing once again, in such visceral words, how detention had affected people who had been detained, or their loved ones, or their group members is enough to make even the most disillusioned, determined once more.
The UK is the only country in Europe without a time-limit on immigration detention. Migrants can be imprisoned indefinitely, solely for ‘bureaucratic convenience’, often for many months and even many years.
A time-limit on detention makes sense for everyone. Detention doesn’t work – and the Home Office’s increased use of detention despite a decline in the number of forced removals (their justification for depriving migrants of their liberty) demonstrates stubbornness and fear in the face of the facts. We need to embolden decision-makers and policy-makers to make this change – show them that there are many of us out there, demanding this change.
Once a time-limit is agreed – and with the Detention Forum we are calling for a maximum time-limit of 28 days, for everyone – it will be easy to demonstrate that the alternatives to detention work. Less people will be detained, detention centres will be closed, and the case for ending all detention can be very strongly made.
The time-limit campaign
Before the election, we set up a web-tool that enabled people to email their future MP to tell them it’s Time4aTimeLimit on immigration detention. In a matter of minutes, people were able to email all of their parliamentary candidates (as long as they had an email address) with a template email explaining just why a time-limit was needed, and asking the candidate to commit to implementing a time-limit if they were elected.
There was a fantastic response to the #Time4aTimeLimit parliamentary candidates email campaign – in just a few weeks, 1036 candidates were sent 2565 emails.
THANK YOU EVERYBODY WHO TOOK PART!
The emails, letters, tweets and hustings really kept ending indefinite detention on the political agenda – and we’re going to keep it there.
The general election results were a set-back for parliamentary-focused anti-detention campaigning (and indeed, for migration justice and human rights campaigning in general), but we now must campaign harder and smarter than ever.
Prior to the election, with the Lib Dems, Labour, SNP and the Greens all committed to a time-limit on detention in their manifestos, a time-limit looked imminent. It certainly was not a given, and much work would have been needed to ensure it actually happened and happened right.
The balance of power in parliament means more work is needed – the campaign isn’t over.
It’s time to think about how we get more parliamentarians interested in detention – not just in constituencies where there are detention centres, as the risk of detention and its harm even after release affects all communities across the UK. Engaging with anti-detention Conservative MPs, and keeping in touch with Labour, SNP, Lib Dem and Green MPs committed to detention reform, is more important than ever.
What you can do now
If you have a new MP, you can arrange to meet with them and talk to them about detention in the UK, and how it has to change. The first-step is the introduction of a time-limit. The most useful tool to do this is the excellent report produced by the first-ever parliamentary inquiry into detention.
The recommendations in that report are well-evidenced, reasonable and convincing – just the kind of thing MPs want to know about!
If your former MP was re-elected, make sure they also know about the report and it’s recommendations:
If you are part of a migrant or asylum support group, why not invite your MP to come and meet the group and see the activities you are involved in? People who have experienced detention first-hand might be able to share very valuable insights into just how unjust and damaging detention is, and why your MP should be part of urgent social justice movement.
Surround Yarl’s Wood
“I protested inside Yarl’s wood, now I want to protest outside Yarl’s wood”.
Attendee at our Manchester event
On 6th June, there will be mass demonstrations outside Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire, the main detention centre used to detain women (women are also detained in Dungavel IRC, Colnbrook IRC, Cedars, Tinsley House, short-term holding facilities and prisons).
The demonstrations are calling for Yarl’s Wood to be shut down. The 6th June protest emerges from more than a year of sustained visible campaigning at detention centres, keeping attention on the issue as a visual statement that there are people demanding change. The impact of protests at detention centres can be maximised through publicity and social media (this is essential as the protests will not be seen by passersby, unlike protests in more public places), and are a great show of solidarity that people in detention can see, hear and get strength from.
Yarl’s Wood has been at the centre of widespread allegations of sexual abuse of people detained by guards, and abuse and intimidation by guards was recently revealed through undercover filming shown on Channel 4 news.
Join the protest at Yarl’s Wood, and call for the end of all detention, for everybody.
The demonstrations are being organised by Movement for Justice and Women for Refugee Women – coaches have been organised across the UK and there are still spaces available to travel on some of these. Find out more at the event Facebook page.
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