Saint Albans Church Community: 28 days and no more, Theresa May!
21 July 2015
Refugee week was action-packed with events on immigration detention. Between Dover and Crawley, travellers reflected on the dangerous journeys that many migrants make while fleeing war and persecution. In the North-East of the country, people discussed how to improve our fight for detention reform. In Scotland, visitors of the Refugee Festival discussed the best way to challenge immigration detention in the post-election landscape. The week ended loud and clear as the Migrants Rights Bloc let their voice be heard at the national anti-austerity demo in London.
Reinvigorated by the buzz of activity on immigration detention, we pushed on. Until we discovered that we had missed one of Refugee Week’s inspiring events. In the peace and quiet of Saint Albans, a church community used Refugee Week to add further weight to the Detention Inquiry’s call for a 28 day time limit on immigration detention.
The ecumenical church community in St Albans, strongly supported by the Diocese of St Albans, has long been involved in the fight for the rights of migrants. Over the years it organised various actions, exhibitions and provided case work support to lawyers defending women detained in Yarls Wood. Since the disestablishment of the Yarls Wood Asylum Case Work Support Group in 2011, the community had been less active, unsure of what to do next. It was the Detention Inquiry’s call for a time limit on detention that provided a clear avenue for the group to re-engage. The Detention Inquiry was helpful because “only facts will convince Theresa May,” explained Adelheid (76), the lead organiser of the action.
During Refugee Week, the Justice & Peace group of St Bartholomew’s Roman Catholic Church in Saint Albans and the Catholic Women’s League asked church goers to sign pre-written letters stressing that “the money saved if the detention system were reformed would go a long way to finance a better and more humane immigration process.” Some took their letters home to study them in further detail. By the next service, the group had collected 90 letters, one for every 3 people in their church. “We organised other actions before that were not always as well received. But this time people were positive,” said Adelheid.
The letters were sent to Theresa May and to the constituency’s Conservative MP, Anne Main last week. The church community in St Albans is now awaiting a response.
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The Detention Forum Team