Feeling uplifted at the amount of attention the appalling conditions of immigration detention has been getting recently. UNHCR has called for an end to immigration detention at a global level and more locally Detainee Fast Track has been ruled as operating unlawfully. Furthermore, protests are increasing across the country and a parliamentary inquiry into detention has been called that we can all take part in! Deadline 1 October 2014
Today a judgement was released by Detention Action that the current operation of the Detainee Fast-Track (DFT) process has been deemed unlawful. While this doesn’t mean that DFT will be abolished it does mean that the Home Office will need to reconsider many issues of the process including access to legal representation particularly at the start of asylum claims that are considered fit for DFT. For those less familiar with DFT it enables asylum cases to be heard basically on fast forward. Appeals need to be submitted within two days and decisions to these are given often the following day. Lawyers routinely drop cases on DFT before they even reach the appeal process which can mean individuals are represented for just a few weeks and less. But it is the refusal rate that really says it all – 99.9% of cases on DFT are refused. The individuals we see on DFT are often from West Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh and their cases barely stand a chance at being given any sort of consideration. Refusals are rushed, spelling mistakes made, appeals lost by courts and most importantly there is NO TIME to obtain evidence as the burden of proof (unlike any other legal procedure) is placed on those seeking protection. I can no longer count the number of individuals that I know of who have been forcibly removed, largely due to DFT, but I can count the number I know of who have been released.
Support organisations like ourselves have long been aware of the horrific ways in which detainees are treated in general and the extensive obstacles individuals on DFT face. We are no longer surprised when we get phone calls from people saying they would rather be sent home and die than remain locked up and humiliated in detention by the very people they thought would protect them and perhaps this is the aim of the Home Office. We hear complaints about being treated like criminals on a daily basis from our friends, locked up for indefinite periods across the country in detention centres such as Dungavel, Harmondsworth, Colnbrook and Brookhouse. Most of us have visited some of these centres and experienced the level of security while trying to visit. In some you cannot even take in food and are told where to sit; one detention facility (Brookhouse) does not even allow you to sit next to detainees! I myself have even been taken to an unfurnished small room with a male member of the security staff in Harmondsworth’s visiting area where visitors show their ID, leave their belongings and get their passes. It was here I was intimidated on two occasions to stop pursuing my attempts to visit a friend of mine Isa Muazu.
Protests against immigration detention are not uncommon and seem to be on the rise. Many of us are so disillusioned that there is simply no other option to get our voices heard and to show solidarity with detainees, our friends. Movement for Justice are doing an amazing job organising and co-ordinating monthly protests outside the notorious Harmondsworth detention centre near Heathrow Airport following protests inside the centre. These were met with such a high level of hostility by Home Office employees with large number of individuals being issued removal directions or moved to other centres in order to shut them down. Others that tried to have their voices heard were put in lock (solitary confinement). It seems there is nothing that will not be attempted to keep individuals away from such behaviour. A pathetic attempt I experienced during a protest outside Harmondsworth, in solidarity with Isa Muazu who had been on hunger strike for 100 days, that he was no longer there. But such tactics go a lot further – it being reported today on Freemovement.org.uk that Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) and Amnesty International’s websites had been blocked inside one of the detention centres.
Now there is a chance for everyone who has experienced immigration detention personally or through support work to submit evidence for FIRST EVER parliamentary inquiry into its practice. We would like to acknowledge the tireless efforts of ex-detainees and activists who have held strong in this ongoing battle against detention and refused to let the sadness that surrounds supporting detainees to lessen their efforts. We also wish to support anyone who is keen to submit evidence and wants help to follow the procedure. We will have the details of how to do so available in our office and the details can also be found by clicking the link below.
HOW TO SUBMIT EVIDENCE – Deadline 1st October 2014
SOLIDARITY especially with those currently held in inhumane immigration detention and those sent back after this experience. Together we can and will make a difference and continue to fight to #ENDDetention