Monday, 20 July 2009

Out of sight, out of mind

Barbed wire and razor wireImage via Wikipedia

Experiences of immigration detention in the UK

Foreword by Shami Chakrabarti

Over the last twenty years, migrants and asylum seekers have become the most dehumanised group of people in Britain. Governments of both colours have stripped them of dignity and protection by turning them into faceless statistics rather than people - parents and children with hopes and fears like everyone else.

Bail for Immigration Detainees is a wonderful organisation that has worked tirelessly to help thousands of these most vulnerable people. In their report 'Out of sight, out of mind', detainees are given back their voices. The stories they tell should make uncomfortable reading for politicians, lawyers, human rights campaigners; indeed for everyone who believes in our country as a place of common decency. How can we play with our kids and sleep soundly in our beds when other families are unnecessarily imprisoned and often abused for doing nothing more than seeking a better life?

This report could make a real difference. The recent successful campaign to welcome the Gurkhas to these shores demonstrates that politicians underestimate the basic fairness of their constituents. When statistics become real human beings it is so much harder to denigrate them. Read these pages of moving testimony and then be moved into action.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

Human cost of immigration detention revealed in new report

A new report 'Out of sight, out of mind' released today by detainee rights charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) reveals the unacceptable human cost of indefinite immigration detention in the UK and calls on the government to halt its plans to increase detention capacity.

Based on testimonies from immigration detainees, BID's report shows the devastating physical and emotional damage caused by immigration detention in the UK. People interviewed in BID's report include
  • Frances, who was detained twice with her children and was not given her HIV medication for several weeks while she was in detention.
  • Luisa, who claimed asylum and was detained after she fled from the men who brought her to the UK to work as a prostitute.
  • Dilip, who arrived in the UK aged 14. He was wrongly told by immigration officials he could not claim asylum as a child and was later detained as an adult for nearly two years.
  • David, who had been in the UK for 39 years when he was arrested for driving offences, given a deportation order and taken into immigration detention. He suffered a stroke in detention but was not taken to hospital.
According to Amanda Shah, BID's Assistant Director-Policy:
The testimonies in this report are a damning indictment of the government's arbitrary use of immigration detention. Deliberately kept out of sight behind barbed wire, the voices of detainees are seldom heard by the British public and the trauma that occurs in detention centres is a hidden national scandal.

We spoke to people who talked of wanting to take their own lives after their experiences in detention, and to British citizens whose families were ripped apart when their husbands, wives or partners were detained.

While the government likes to use the image of detention to demonstrate it is 'tough' on immigration, this report highlights the true cost of its detention policy - damaged lives and wasted taxpayers' money.
(Download: 'Out ofsight, out of mind'.pdf)

Notes for editors:

1. 'Out of sight, out of mind: experiences of immigration detention in the UK' is released to mark BID's tenth anniversary. BID is an independent charity working with asylum seekers and migrants in removal centres and prisons to secure their release from immigration detention.

2. Nearly 30,000 people every year are held in immigration detention in the UK, in eleven detention centres known as 'Immigration Removal Centres' as well as prisons and police cells. The UK Border Agency's detention budget for 2009/10 is £107.1 million.

3. Held without time limit and without automatic access to the courts, immigration detainees include British citizens wrongly identified as foreign nationals; asylum seekers who have fled to the UK seeking sanctuary; children detained with their families; the wives and husbands of British citizens; and long-time British residents who have served custodial sentences for driving offences or petty theft.

4. In May 2008 the government announced it intends to increase its detention capacity by 60%.
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