Here’s a short report on the action that Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group organised on 9th April 2015 with Sussex STAR.


‘Immigration Detention: A Call to Action’

On Thursday 9th April Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group joined a panel hosted by Sussex Student Action for Refugees at Sussex University and chaired by Dr Michael Collyer from the Sussex Centre for Migration Research. The focus of the discussion was the recent parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention and taking action on immigration detention in the run-up to the elections.

Lauren Cape-Davenhill from the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group gave a short introduction to detention in the UK and an overview of the recent cross-party parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention, which recognised that the current system is ‘expensive, ineffective and unjust’ and called for ‘radical reform’ of the system, starting with the introduction of a 28 day time limit.

Mohammed D then gave a powerful insight into his own experience of being detained in Brook House IRC. Mohammed came to the UK on a work visa with the BBC World Service and subsequently worked as a gas engineer, and had been living in the UK for 28 years before being detained in Brook House. He described the shock of being woken at 6am in an immigration raid on his home, and the difficulties adjusting to life in immigration detention. He outlined the difficulties faced by many in detention accessing legal advice, and the impacts on mental health. Mohammed said that even after his release the ‘tentacles of detention’ followed him, and he still experiences poor sleep and bad dreams over a year after his release.

Professor JoAnn McGregor, Sussex Centre for Migration Research/Director of the Sussex Africa Centre, presented her own research into the long-term impacts of immigration detention. She highlighted that the Home Office focuses on the people who are going to be removed, whilst in fact many people in detention are ultimately released back into the community, and some go on to become British citizens. What does it mean for integration, ‘belonging’ and community cohesion for so many people living in the UK to go through the unjust and traumatic experience of indefinite detention?

The panel and students then discussed action on immigration detention that might be taken at the University of Sussex, looking at examples from the University of Oxford and SOAS for ideas on what other universities have done on this issue. Lauren encouraged people to contact prospective parliamentary candidates to ask them to pledge support for a 28 day time limit on immigration detention if elected, and the use of the #Time4ATimeLimit hashtag on Twitter – happily the University of Sussex Amnesty Group were tweeting throughout the event. The Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group looks forward to continuing working closely with Sussex STAR and the Sussex Centre for Migration Research to push for change on the issue of immigration detention, and is grateful to the University for hosting this talk.

(By Lauren Cape-Davenhill)

You can see the photos of the event by @locosmo here.

You can hear the recording of the event here.