UK: "Detention doesn't work... for anyone"

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The charity Detention Action is calling for an end to indefinite immigration detention in the UK, arguing that the system currently in place does not work "for anyone".

"In the UK, migrants are deprived of their liberty without charge or trial," says the charity's campaign briefing. "The UK Border Agency detains migrants for longer than any other country in Europe. Asylum-seekers, foreign ex-offenders and other migrants are held in prison-like conditions without time limit." [1]

The charity is calling for people to raise the matter with their MP by either writing a letter or booking an appointment, or by planning an event with the help of Detention Action. [2]

A campaign video features a narrative based on a letter sent by a detained migrant to a friend:

"I don't feel safe here. I am living in a nightmare. Struggling day, after day, after day, not knowing when they will let me out. Every part of my individual identity and dignity has been removed, without any hope. I feel totally degraded and dehumanised. By imposing this extreme, indefinite confinement, they have taken away my freedom - emotional, physical and intellectual freedom…

"After more than three years of being locked up in here, they still won't tell me when they will let me free. I am going through torture. The fear and despair I feel is overwhelming."

Detention Action say that the cost to the taxpayer to detain one person for a year is £47,000, which "wastes £75,000,000,000 a year" in total.

The UK is the only country in Europe that routinely detains migrants indefinitely - including survivors of torture, as documented by Medical Justice [3] - and has opted out of European legislation (the Returns Directive) that would limit the length of detention periods.

According to joint report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration in December 2012, 3,034 detainees were held under immigration law in March 2012. This included children and victims of trafficking and torture. 42 detainees had spent more than two years in detention. The longest detained person amongst interviewees had spent nearly five years locked up. [4]

The absence of automatic judicial review of detention orders and the lack of regular, coherent and appropriate reviews of detention raised concern for the inspectors. In 59% of cases detention was not reviewed by the right authority.

The report stressed that detention should only occur when detainees can be deported or removed within a reasonable period. The UK's bail guidance for immigration judges says that "three months would be considered a substantial period of time and six months a long period." [5]

More information on Detention Action's campaign is available on their website.

[1] Detention Action, Detention doesn't work... for anyone campaign briefing, December 2012
[2] Detention Action, Take action
[3] Natasha Tsangarides, "The Second Torture": The immigration detention of torture survivors, Medical Justice, May 2012
[4] HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, The effectiveness and impact of immigration detention casework, December 2012
[5] Mr Clements, Bail guidance for judges presiding over immigration and asylum hearings, 11 June 2012

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