Baroness Sally Hamwee has been named Detention Forum Champion. She joins MPs Dame Caroline Spelman, Paul Blomfield and Stuart McDonald among parliamentarians recognised for their long-standing commitment to immigration detention reform.

Last month, representatives from LD4SOS (Liberal Democrat Seekers of Sanctuary), Freed VoicesDetention ActionJRS UK and the Detention Forum presented Baroness Hamwee with a Detention Forum Champion award in honour of her work.

Freed Voices presented Baroness Hamwee with a letter of recognition.

As experts by experience who know the trauma of the experience of being incarcerated indefinitely in detention centres across the UK, we know how important is to have radical detention reform for all.

We as the Freed Voices group take this opportunity to thank you and express our appreciation for all the work you have done, you are doing and for your dedication towards being a part of this long fight against the unjust immigration detention estate.

You were a panel member of the 2015 Parliamentary Inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK. We Freed Voices consider this inquiry a milestone of the UK immigration detention reform process. This inquiry put the 28 day time limit onto the map, including the urgent need for alternatives for detention.

You have been and are continuing to be a very supportive, credible and important voice in Parliament in the fight against immigration detention in the UK. You have been closely working with the Detention Forum, which the Freed Voices have been working closely and collaboratively with for years.

You are continuing this endeavour as a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into immigration detention.

Individuals like you remind us that we are not alone or forgotten. It helps us to remind that the ‘out of sight and out mind’ concept when it comes to the Immigration Detention is shattering.

Freed Voices, December 2018

Baroness Hamwee expressed her admiration for all those affected by detention and campaigning for detention reform.

I wasn’t aware until a few years ago that this country detains people who try to make their home here, and that this can be for an indefinite period.  It’s the last thing I want my country to be doing.  I was moved and humbled to receive the “detention champion” award from the Detention Forum. I don’t know how people who work to help detainees keep going, nor people who are detained or whose asylum claims are unresolved or not recognised. I admire you all, and am very grateful to have by my desk a permanent reminder of the amazing people – detainees, activists, volunteers, professionals – I’ve met through this awful situation.

Baroness Sally Hamwee

The presentation took place during Unlocking Detention 2018, the fifth annual ‘virtual tour’ of the UK’s immigration detention estate. As part of Unlocking Detention, Baroness Hamwee was interviewed by K., a member of Freed Voices, about her work on detention reform.

I think it is the whole subject of immigration that politicians find difficult to discuss, rather than immigration detention, because it is a subject that is often regarded as one where people have fixed ideas that immigration is a bad thing, and where it is very easy to lose votes – so it’s best just avoided.

I have hardly given any thought over the years to my own motivation; it simply seems to me that a system which has such an impact on detainees, when they are in detention and following it, must be challenged; it is not what I want my country to be doing, in my name, and I am ashamed of it being applied so widely.  What is the point of being in politics if you don’t try to challenge what you think is wrong.

The Parliamentary committee of which I am a member (the Committee on Human Rights) is looking at detention at the moment, and I can see that the evidence we are hearing is affecting everyone. We haven’t yet formulated our report (and we cannot do more than make recommendations and generally get issues aired in public), but I hope we will make real progress in getting much wider acceptance that detention does damage (I don’t know how anyone can spend more than a day or two in detention without becoming “vulnerable”); that it must be limited, and known to be limited, to a short period at the outside (people seem to gather round 28 days); and that conditions in detention centres must be hugely improved.

Baroness Sally Hamwee

You can read about other Detention Forum Champions, including Paul Blomfield MPStuart McDonald MP and Dame Caroline Spelman MP.