A long three-month marathon of #unlocked16 ended on International Migrants Day, 18 December 2016.  The Detention Forum’s flagship project, Unlocking Detention, is a virtual tour of the UK’s detention estate.  This project started in 2014, and this was our third tour.

This year’s tour took place against the background of some promises for change.  Strong criticisms by the Parliamentary Inquiry panel and the Shaw Review forced the UK government to accept the need for substantial detention reform.  Politicians also secured some important legislative changes during the passage of Immigration Act 2016, which introduced a detention time limit for pregnant women and limited judicial oversight for some categories of people in detention.

These changes were won because people and communities affected by detention spoke loudly and powerfully about the devastating impact of detention – and that powerfulness was evidently still there in the weekly live Q&As with people who were detained (here’s one with ‘Jose’ if you want to know more about these Q&As).

Yet the tour also picked up a simmering sense of frustration, pain and anger from people in detention, their friends, families and communities.  Everyone knows that the promised changes are simply not happening quickly enough.  For what reasons, for example, the Immigration Enforcement Business Plan 2016/17 is still unpublished remain unclear.  Why despite the evidence that community-based alternatives to detention can help people, including those with complex needs, avoid detention, the government continues to harm individuals through detention is also unclear.  But what is clear is that although the Unlocking Detention tour ended, we will be continuing to push for change.

In the last week of the tour, we asked people “What gave you hope in the fight against detention in 2016, and how are you planning to use that hope in 2017?” (here is one of the six blogs dealing with the same topic).  It’s clear that we all have different reasons to remain hopeful.   Do stay with us and please use that hope this year – we have a lot to do indeed.

We would also like to thank you for taking part in the tour.  This is how you supported the tour.

  • 800 new Twitter followers followed @DetentionForum to join in the tour.
  • 1,000 of you read our blogs every week.
  • Many others also read our #unlocked16 blogs published on external platforms, such as Open Democracy, Justice Gap, Huff Post, The Conversation, Novara Media, Rights Info, COMPASS blog, Rene Cassin blog and PICUM blog.
  • This piece by Ajay, A Letter to The Old Me, Before Brook House, has been the most frequently read blog by you so far.
  • The most popular tweet during the tour was this one:

We also asked you a question “What does detention mean to you?” and draw your answers.  We received so many, and here’s one of them.

So what can you do right now?  One of the priorities is to continue to seek political accountability and urge politicians to deliver the promised detention reform.  Here’s what you can do.

The 2016 tour was coordinated by Right to Remain and Detention Action, two of the Detention Forum member organisations.  Over 60 blogs were produced by our members, people and communities affected by detention and supporters.  Our team of social media volunteers (Alice, Gala, Sylvia, Kalina, Rosie, Ruth and Priya) supported the tour throughout.

You can revisit #unlocked16 at www.unlocked.org.uk  If you have any feedback, tweet us using the hashtag #unlocked16 or @DetentionForum

By The Detention Forum team