Immigration detention and its inhumane reality is one of the UK’s worst and most distressing secrets. Each year thousands of people are locked up in prison-like conditions for an indefinite amount of time, meaning they have no idea when they will be released.
The UK Home Office use detention centres as a holding place for people who haven’t been born here and who are going through the immigration system in some way. We’re talking about an administrative system here - detention is completely separate to our criminal justice system and is neither for public protection nor punishment.
Yet the UK’s system of immigration detention is cruel and inhumane. People who’ve been detained talk of how distressing detention is and the long term mental health crises it causes.
What makes it more confusing is that what the Government say detention is used for is so far removed from the reality. They say it’s used only in exceptional circumstances ahead of someone being deported. But that doesn’t explain why it’s so inhumane and why so many people lose months or years of their lives locked away in a distressing limbo. And the fact is that the majority of people aren’t deported – they are released again to their families and communities but often never recovering from this traumatic experience.
It’s been proven that immigration detention is harmful to individuals and to the community. But instead of using humane and effective alternatives, the Home Office has been trying to expand its nightmare system. And now Priti Patel’s latest proposals would make this all even worse.
What’s been happening?
Just recently, the Home Office shut down a successful community scheme designed to prevent detention and protect women who are here seeking safety. In place of this compassionate solution they have chosen to build a new detention centre for women.
On top of the thousands of people already being held in official detention centres each year, the Government is also co-opting unsuitable spaces to warehouse people en masse while they are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim. This means people can spend months living in isolated and unsuitable buildings with no idea of when their case will be reviewed, or they will be able to leave and rebuild their lives in safety. The Home Office is actively taking people away from communities where they could be supported and allowed to thrive, and instead housing people in places and locations which are essentially detention centres.
You may have seen the recent uproar calling to #CloseTheBarracks in response to vulnerable people– people who’ve fled their homes to seek safety and who may have experienced trafficking or torture - being thrown into disused army barracks that are dangerous and unfit for purpose. Listening to those with lived experience of the barracks it is clear this is not a humane way to treat anyone. And let’s not forget, many of these people have fled war or been trafficked or tortured making it even more cruel and traumatic.
It was like a prison. No one told me what would happen next or how long we will be staying here. Of course, uncertainty and the ambiguity of the future affects our sanity, mental health, and overall our general health. There is anxiety and fear of the future. We hope the future becomes more clear so these anxious thoughts and fears come to an end. Barracks resident from SOAS detainee support
For months and months charities and experts have been calling this out for what this really is: ‘immigration detention in all but name’. The Home Office trying to increase the use of detention by rebranding it isn’t fooling anyone!
Priti Patel’s latest proposals plan to make this all even worse. The recent announcements from the Home Secretary, included that people seeking asylum in the UK would be ‘housed in reception centres’. Sounds quite welcoming, hey? But housing vulnerable people for extended periods of time in isolated locations without their consent, and with limited freedom of movement is purposefully replicating the unjust and distressing system of immigration detention! Using this misleading language to rebrand their inhumane and cruel plans is an intentional attempt to try and fool us about the reality.
And it doesn’t end there. The controversial plans for essentially warehousing people seeking asylum on far away islands is even more concerning. This proposal replicates Australia’s highly controversial use of using islands as offshore detention centres – which have been condemned for systematic abuse and human rights violations.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
We know there are tried and trusted alternatives to detention. And most asylum applications are processed while people live in the community without the need for people to be housed in detention centres or in detention centres packaged up as something else.
If we were ever to find ourselves in desperate circumstances and needed to turn to another country for protection we would hope to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion and not locked away in prison like conditions.
Join us and Detention Action and take action now.