Most weeks, Unlocking Detention visits a specific detention centre. Last week was a little different. From the 4th-11th November, Unlocking Detention focused on the hundreds of people held under immigration powers in short-term holding facilities and prisons across the UK. Those detained in prisons are even less visible than those held elsewhere in the UK’s detention estate, and face additional challenges.

Here’s a summary of the week.

Immigration detention in prisons

At the end of June 2018, 321 people were being detained in prisons, representing 14.4% of the total population detained under immigration powers. This interactive map, created by AVID and FWDS London, shows how many people are detained indefinitely under immigration powers in prisons and where.

We’ve been tweeting about immigration detention in prisons all week, and also featured this blog from Benny Hunter at AVID on why the hundreds of people detained in prisons must not be forgotten when we talk about detention reform.

Short-term holding facilities

This week we also focused on the UK’s 40 short-term holding facilities. Here, people can be detained for up to 24 hours or seven days, as explained in the graphic below.

These Walls Must Fall organiser Lauren Cape-Davenhill wrote about the re-opening of the Manchester Residential Short Term Holding Facility and the local opposition to immigration detention. In her words:

The Manchester Airport detention facility that opened this June comes at a time when many people in Manchester and the North West are saying, loudly and clearly, that we’ve had enough of people being taken from our communities and locked up in prison-like conditions, just because of their immigration status. Councillors, union activists, refugee and migrant groups and community organisations have been uniting to say ‘no’ to detention.

She also highlighted the actions you can take to challenge detention. Read Lauren’s blog here.

K.A. interviews Sarah Teather

We had a new feature this week: an interview with former MP Sarah Teather, conducted by expert-by-experience K.A. K.A. interviewed Sarah over email about her experience of running the parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention.

At the end of the interview, K.A. said:

What I would say to people out there reading this is never give up. You only lose when you give up. More importantly, tell your story. These little voices coming together that will send out the greater voice to make a difference. Your voice can make a difference.

You can read the whole interview here.

Immigration detention: mental torture

Also this week, we heard from A. Panquang, a Detention Forum volunteer and member of Freed Voices who was detained for 9 months. A. said:

It doesn’t matter how you jeopardised your immigration status, if and when you are detained, you will be detained indefinitely. It will affect you and your family mentally, it will drain funds and resources, you will lose control and sight of your own immigration process, you’ll have no idea when your fate will be decided, even if you have the desire and power to legitimise your stay in the UK. All control will be taken away from you, you have limited legal resources at your disposal. It is the Home Office’s way of exerting mental control over you.

A.’s blog is a must-read. Find it here.

Detention happens closer than you might think

The next blog of the week came from Katherine Maxwell-Rose of IMiX.

Katherine reflects on listening to the ‘horrifying details’ of detention in China’s Xinjiang region – and then realising that the UK ‘has dark secrets of its own – and many people know little or nothing about them’. As she writes,

  • Each year in the UK thousands of people subject to immigration control are detained indefinitely with no trial or time limit given.
  • Last year over 27,000 people were held in detention, many of who were ‘adults at risk’
  • According to a recent survey, 30 per cent of those in detention have child dependents living in the UK.

Read her blog here.

“Immigrants emigrate, hopeful anticipate”

The final piece of the week came from Ralph, who was detained for a total of 14 months in two prisons and a detention centre. After this experience, Ralph writes,

Considering the level of suffering and my thirst for freedom, I opted to leave in January of 2015 voluntarily and I’ve been trying to get back to my four children ever since. It’s been nearly three years without my kids. Bear in mind I lived in the UK well over 12 years before all of this.

Read Ralph’s powerful contribution here.

Actions to end detention

As always, a huge, huge thank you to everyone who has taken part in the tour this week and who takes action to end detention, year-round. Here are just a few of the ways people are challenging detention that we saw on Twitter this week:

Take action

There’s no shortage of ways for you to take action to challenge immigration detention. Some of these were featured in Lauren’s blog, and in the tweets below. Also this week, we featured a blog about the Sanctuary in Parliament event. Although the event has now taken place, the blog still contains lots of helpful info about engaging with your MP.

Finally, we love your selfies. Please keep them coming!