What does detention mean to you?



By Lisa Matthews, Coordinator at Right to Remain

Unlocking Detention 2016 starts on Monday, and runs until 18 December.  There are so many ways to get involved (see here), to help shine a spotlight on the grave civil rights abuse that is immigration detention.

One of the ways we’re asking people to join the conversation, and creatively connect with this issue, is to draw a picture in response to the question: “What does detention mean to you?”

This is my drawing.  It’s meant to show the sound of keys.

I’ve been working with people in detention, post-detention and at risk of detention for years now, and have heard so many stories of distress, harm, collapse, abuse.

But there’s one thing that really hit me, really chilled me, even after all these years of hearing and holding stories of detention.

It was while I was running a session with experts-by-experience in order to collect group evidence for the first-ever parliamentary inquiry into detention.  It was a really powerful session in many ways (and you can read Eiri Ohtani’s brilliant write up of the day here).  Listening, facilitating, probing to not only lay bare the damage that detention does, but to channel this experience into an effective demand for change.  People had so much they could tell, and I was really struck by how respectful people were of each other’s voices, stories, pain.

People had unique experiences, and the long shadows of detention were cast over people’s lives in different ways.  But there was one thing that they all agreed on, and that I’d never heard people talk about before …

the sound of keys.

Still today, many months or even years after being released from detention, the sound of keys jangling took them straight back. Straight back to those cells, that isolation, that trauma.  The scars of detention are hard to erase.

We’d love you to share your own picture.  They don’t have to be masterpieces (see above!), and could just take a minute or two to draw.  You don’t have to know anything about detention to take part – maybe your picture could reflect that it doesn’t mean anything to you, yet.

You can tweet the pictures @detentionforum, and/or using #Unlocked16.  You also don’t have to be on twitter to take part – alternatively, email your pictures to lisa@righttoremain.org.uk

You can give your name, and some background to the picture, or you can ask us to share it anonymously – up to you.


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