Monday 20 February is a national day of action – One Day Without Us – in solidarity with migrants, with events taking place up and down the country. In Manchester, Right to Remain is working with local migrant groups including United For Change and Manchester Migrant Solidarity to hold two events in Piccadilly Gardens (12.30pm and 5pm). One Day Without Us encourages people to reflect on the sometimes vital, life-changing, sometimes mundane, day-to-day part that migrants play in the life of the UK, in the life of our communities. Migration is life. On this day, we will be standing with thousands of others to defend the rights of migrants, standing up to the hostile environment, and especially to immigration detention. Detention is one of the most brutal and divisive policies in the UK’s immigration system. It harms individuals, it harms families, it harms communities. On the day that we will be standing shoulder to shoulder – as migrants, as British citizens, as people – we will be saying “These Walls Must Fall”. Over 30,000 people are locked up each year in prison-like detention centres, not for having committed any crime, but simply because they do not have the correct immigration papers. Many thousands more live in fear, knowing they could be detained at any time.
“At 5 am I wake up sat on my bed and staring outside the window looking at the gods, praying that G4S will not come today”
People at risk of detention include those who have escaped war, violence, persecution, poverty; people who have come to Britain for safety and security, or to work, study or to join their family, spouse or partner. People like us, people who are neighbours, parents, sisters, brothers, partners, friends. At the forefront of Monday’s events are those who have experienced immigration detention, or are living every day with the threat of detention hanging over them. They have been hard at work producing beautiful and powerful placards for the day. Here, two local people explain the impact that detention has had on them – on how the scars of detention are slow to fade, and how the shadow of detention can darken every moment of the day:
“Some of the women do come back [from detention] after a long while, but some never return. The ones that return are always different. They become different people.”
“My experience of detention was bad. Because I was a man in the family detention centre, I was not allowed to leave the room without a security guard and their attitude towards me was terrible. They would say: “I shall do, a certain task, when I please”. For example, I said to them that I have an appointment with the doctors could you take me there please and then they would say, we’ll take you when we please. When I was taken from my home to a detention centre, in the detention centre they wouldn’t even let me move freely. This experience of the detention centre eliminated all my self-confidence and made me feel humiliated and like a slave. Even after they let me go, I still was feeling very scared and afraid to leave the house. I could still visualise them and I am having flashbacks and panic attacks. They took me illegally as I did nothing wrong and I am just trying to make a living and contribute to the society.”
“I have never been detained but I live with lots of women who have been taken to detention – in and out! They always come early in the morning about 12 immigration officers at about 5-6 am bang on the door, shouting when we open the door they will go up and start shouting the name of the person they are here for. You can brush your teeth or pack a bag and then they take you in the van to the detention centre. Some of the women do come back after a long while but some never return. The ones that return are always different, they are jumpy and scared of noises and always crying and mentally disturbed. They become different people. This scares me, it makes me not sleep at night and at 5 am I wake up sat on my bed and staring outside the window looking at the gods, praying that G4S will not come today, then I thank god and go to sleep, this is how I fear of being detained.”