These Walls Must Fall campaign gaining ground in Bristol and around the country.
“This Council believes that the UK’s immigration detention system is not fit for purpose and the Government must end immigration detention now.”
Officially backing this statement is the aim of a motion that Green councillor for Redland, Fi Hance, will submit to the council meeting tomorrow (11th December). The move comes after hundreds of people in Bristol marched to oppose the detention system last Saturday (8 December).
If passed, the motion, which has also been supported by Bristol Labour, will also call on the mayor to support the These Walls Must Fall campaign among other actions.
The national These Walls Must Fall campaign is a network of civil society groups working together to pressure the government to end immigration detention entirely, on the basis that it is cruel, ineffective and expensive – and that most people detained are released to continue their cases after their period in detention.
Pressure on the government to address its use of immigration detention has been growing. In 2015, an All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into detention recommended against its disproportionate use, to introduce a range of alternatives to detention, and when detention is used, a 28 day time limit. A new inquiry into detention is open.
Among others, Manchester, Liverpool and Cambridge councils have passed motions to support changes in current laws and procedures to introduce alternatives to detention.
Unnecessary and unjustifiable
Officially termed as ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ (IRCs) by the Home Office, the detention system holds asylum seekers waiting to hear back about their status, asylum seekers who have been refused, and other migrants with visa discrepancies. With nine detention centres in the UK, it has one of the largest detention systems in Europe—and is the only country in the region that detains people indefinitely.
At the Bristol campaign launch of These Walls Must Fall in November, Ruth Pickersgill, Labour councillor for Easton said that ‘no asylum seeker is illegal’. To give an example of the hostility they symbolise, Pickersgill described supporting an asylum seeker who was in Brook House Detention Centre, with the address ‘Perimeter Fence, South Gatwick’.
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Yet despite the fear detention and the risk of removal provokes as part of the ‘hostile environment’ policy of the Conservative government, figures show that many of the people detained go on to be granted the right to remain in the country.
Recent figures from the Home Office show that during 2017, 27,331 people entered detention. The Home Office do not produce a number of those who are returned—enforced or voluntary—solely from detention.
However, out of the 66% of asylum claims that are turned down initially, 41% of these are overturned on their appeal, granting the individuals refugee status and the right to stay in the UK.
This means that those with the right of remaining in the UK are being detained indefinitely under the government’s ‘hostile environment’.
Despite many legal challenges, the Home Office is still arriving at asylum seekers’ homes in the middle of the night, and locally, migrants are being detained when they are legitimately reporting to or ‘signing on’ at Patchway Police Centre.
Arrey who is involved with Freed Voices, a project led by people with experience of detention, highlights the futile and detrimental effects of detention: “Most of those detained are released back into the community, with mental health illnesses, and with every trust in the community damaged.”
He said of his experience in detention, how insulting it was to him to be paid a pound a hour to work inside the centre—but he had to do it as a coping mechanism after he was taken hundreds of miles away from his friends and families.
“The thing is, you don’t know how long you’ll be there—you can’t promise anyone anything.”
With the announcement in November of the closure of Campsfield Detention Centre a big step forward for the anti-detention movement, this growing campaign is a chance to show solidarity to those in danger of detention in Bristol, challenge the anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, and racialised rhetoric of our current politics.
You can sign the appeal here.