By Tom Sanderson
Over the past two years, ECDN have been members of the Detention Forum, a collective of organisations and campaigns working towards an increased public awareness of the horror of our immigration detention system and fighting to reduce the harm this system does to vulnerable people in our communities and who are seeking sanctuary in our country.
The government claims that they only use detention as a last resort to ensure people are deported. But many of these people are subsequently found to have valid claims for asylum, meaning the imprisonment is entirely pointless. Others cannot be deported as they do not have a passport and their Embassy refuses to allow them to return, or because their country of origin is too dangerous to be removed to.
However, none of these people that our government locks up are allowed to know if or when they will be released. There is no obligation on the UK Border Agency to give them a date, taking away not only their freedom but also their hope. The UK is one of the only countries in the world without a limit on the time for which they hold people in immigration detention. This is why the Detention Forum has been campaigning for an end to indefinite detention, with #Timeforatimelimit.
The prisons in which indefinite detention goes on are based by design in remote locations in order to keep the system out of both sight and mind of the general British public. Travelling to a detention centre whether to support those inside or protest against those who keep them there is being made deliberately difficult. This is why the Detention Forum started the Unlocking Detention Twitter tour.
The campaign first ran between September and December last year and used social media to bypass the geographical isolation of the detention centres, with each week focusing on a different centre within the UK’s detention estate, with articles on OpenDemocracy, blog posts on organisations homepages and tweets sharing people’s experiences of these places, highlighting the injustices that happen there and raising awareness of the unfair system more generally. The campaign starts on the 21st September with a virtual ‘visit’ to all the short term holding facilities and prisons in which people are also held under immigration powers.
Check the schedule for the tour on the Detention Forum’s page and see if there’s a detention centre near you. Whether you live near one or not, there are many ways you can get involved:
− Find out more about immigration detention by reading the blog posts and articles, and following the Detention Forum on Twitter
− Contact your MP, ask them to attend the parliamentary debate on 10th September and express your opposition to indefinite detention
− Take part in the Alternative Debate on detention with #UnlockTheDebate
− Engage with the #Unlocked15 campaign via Twitter.