17 February 2016

The Detention Forum is saddened to hear about a death in Colnbrook Detention Centre, near Heathrow Airport.  We understand that the exact circumstances of the death remain unconfirmed.  

Our thoughts are with his friends and families, and also others currently detained in Colnbrook who have received this shocking news this morning. 

Over 400 migrants, mainly men, are held indefinitely, without a time limit, at Colnbrook Detention Centre next to the runway of Heathrow Airport.  Many inside suffer from mental health problems and yet, are forced to spend an agonising and uncertain time in administrative incarceration separated from their loved ones, without knowing what might happen to them tomorrow.  Every year, over 30,000 migrants face the same fate in the UK.  

Following the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention last year,  the swell of support for the radical reform of the immigration detention system has been growing day by day – not just in the detention centres, in the communities who are supporting them and among civil society organisations, but also in Parliament.  

The debates during the passage of Immigration Bill in both Houses has been dominated by a call for detention reform, including a call for a time limit on immigration detention.  

Just recently, the government-commissioned review into the welfare of vulnerable individuals held in immigration detention by Stephen Shaw also found that the reform is urgently needed.  

While we welcome the government’s acceptance of the thrust of the Shaw Review, that the size of the detention estate must be reduced, today’s death at Colnbrook is a reminder that changes are not coming fast enough.  In fact, despite having sat on the Shaw Review since September 2015, the government is yet to articulate how it intends to change its detention practice.  

Eiri Ohtani (@EiriOhtani), of the Detention Forum said, “The UK government has no more excuses left to delay its detention reform work.  Investigation after investigation reveals the truth of detention, that it seriously harms people.  When other countries around the world are able to manage their migration with a clear time limit on immigration detention, UK, alone in Europe, claims it cannot do it.  People in detention and communities who are supporting them simply cannot wait any longer for this barbaric practice to end.”

Michael Collins, of Right to Remain said, “Locking people up, with no time limit, cannot be justified in any circumstances. It is not just a serious breach of civil liberties, it can and does destroy people. People who are detained, their families, and the communities they are taken from, are all damaged by this malignant practice.” 

John, of Freed Voices, who was detained in Colnbrook himself wrote in his letter to Colnbrook last year; 

“I met lots of people who had lost hope because they didn’t know when they were getting out. Is this why you don’t have a time-limit? So that people give up?  Even though I’ve been out now for two months, do you know I still have panic attack every time I think about the horror I went through in your detention centre? Three weeks ago I almost fainted at the police station where I usually sign, just because I saw two immigration officers walking towards me. In that moment, I thought I was going to be arrested. I thought I was going to see you again.  Goodbye Colnbrook. I hope I can clear your horror from my memory. I hope we never meet again.”