Bristol councillors have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a These Walls Must Fall motion, calling for an end to immigration detention and committing the council to taking action for the campaign.
Bristol joins Manchester, Liverpool, Cambridge, Brighton and Hove, Islington and Lambeth as the first councils to approve these motions. Who will be next?
If you want to help your local council to pass a motion, see our how-to guide here.
The Bristol council motion was proposed by the Green Party, with support from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. It was tabled by Green Councillor Fi Hance, and calls on the Mayor to lobby the UK government and work with MPs and other councils to push for a change in immigration law and alternatives to detention.
“I am proud that Bristol is joining a growing number of cities in telling the government that the indefinite detention of immigrants and asylum seekers is unjust and unacceptable. I hope the Mayor will help us take this campaign to the government and demand reform of this cruel and inhumane policy as soon as possible.”Councillor Fi Hance
The only dissenting voice came from a Conservative councillor who moved an amendment to the effect that the council wished to see less detention, to be used only as a last resort, and better conditions.
In response, Labour councillor Estella Tincknell described this a “wrecking amendment”, and asked why people should trust reforms to be handled by the party of Brexit, austerity, the Windrush scandal and the hostile environment; the “nasty party”.
This was echoed by Councillor Negus for the Lib Dems, who supported the original motion, adding that the proposed amendment watered it down and devalued the message that this is a serious civil liberties issue.
Labour Councillor Ruth Pickersgill, who worked with Councillor Hance on the motion, said:
“These Walls Must Fall is a really important national campaign. As part of a wider deliberately hostile environment, this Government has allowed a situation to develop where asylum seekers and migrants can be detained for indefinite periods in prison conditions”Councillor Ruth Pickersgill
Thanks to the local campaigners
Introducing the motion, Councillor Hance began by thanking the These Walls Must Fall campaigners, some of whom were in the public gallery. This included local rugby player Ken Macharia, who was detained earlier this month, and threatened with forced removal to Kenya where, as a gay man, he would be in terrible danger.
Councillors thanked the campaigners for giving the council this opportunity to vote, and acknowledged their dedication and tenacity, organising public meetings, petitions, emails to councillors, marches through the city, and a banner across the motorway.
Mayor Rees thanked the These Walls Must Fall campaign for clearly setting out the arguments against detention from all sides, from the moral to the financial. The Mayor also referred back to the recent Global Parliament of Mayors, held in Bristol, and noted that cities at local democracy level often have a different, much more positive view of migration than national governments, and should have more of a say in developing policy around migration.
David Ion from the local These Walls Must Fall campaign group got in touch to say that this is just the beginning of the campaign in Bristol:
“By passing this motion the city council have shown that they are as committed as the people of Bristol are to ending immigration detention. This is a great victory for our campaign and will mean Bristol will play a leading role in the ongoing fight against our country’s most shameful institution. Thank you to all those councillors who showed their support.”David Ion, Bristol These Walls Must Fall campaigner
Find the Bristol These Walls Must Fall campaign on Facebook, and look out for more local campaign activity in the new year.
Thank you Bristol!
11 DECEMBER 2018
1. ENDING IMMIGRATION DETENTION
Motion submitted by: Cllr Hance, Redland ward, Green
Date submitted: 29 November 2018
Full Council notes that:
1. Immigrants and asylum seekers who have committed no crimes continue to be detained in conditions that are sometimes worse than mainstream prisons.
2. The UK is the only country in Europe to not have a time limit on how long immigrants and asylum seekers can be detained. This means that many are detained for months or even years at a time, without any certainty about when they’ll be released or deported, causing significant and unacceptable distress.
3. There are 11 detention centres used for this purpose in the UK, one of the largest number is Europe.
4. Between 2500 and 3500 people are detained at any time and 27,300 ended up in the Centres in 2017 at a cost of over £125 million a year. This is not only a waste of money, but indefinite detention without charge is a clear breach of people’s human rights.
5. The Home Office is still arriving at asylum seekers’ homes in the middle of the night, here in Bristol or stopping them when they are legitimately signing on at the police station in Patchway, whisking them away to another part of the country, where many are unable to have visits from family and friends due to the cost of travel. The majority of detainees are eventually released if they get the right legal support, as they have done nothing wrong, but many never get over the trauma of detention.
1. Believes that the Government must end immigration detention now.
2. Restates our commitment as a City of Sanctuary and recognises these issues form an essential part of the Dignity not Destitution Pledge, which has been signed by the Mayor.
Full Council calls on the Mayor to:
1. Endorse the These Walls Must Fall Campaign (http://detention.org.uk/)
2. Call on the Government to implement the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into detention.
3. Recognise all the hard work that volunteers do to support local asylum seekers who are detained.
4. Ask our local MPs to support the spirit of the motion, to continue to raise the matter in the House of Commons, and to support changes in current laws and procedures to introduce alternatives to detention.
5. Seek further support for the motion via the Local Government Association, and by encouraging other Councils in the UK to raise the issue.