Immigration detention is prison by another name – but seeking sanctuary is not a crime
‘Aman’ is an activist for These Walls Must Fall. They write under a pseudonym. This article originally appeared in the Metro.
Last week, Liverpool City Council passed a motion in support of the These Walls Must Fall campaign, which challenges the use of detention in the immigration and asylum system.
What is detention? It is a part of the UK immigration system, and anyone who is an immigrant and not a British citizen is liable to be detained.
This could be anyone who is on a student, work, or family visa. The people most commonly affected are those seeking asylum in this country – in 2017, research revealed that almost 50% of the people detained have sought asylum here, and many are still fighting their cases.
People in detention often flee traumatic situations or are victims of human trafficking or domestic violence.
They come here to seek protection, but unfortunately they are being detained for doing exactly that.
Detention affects their mental and physical health.
I am a victim of torture and I have been detained twice as a teenager in this country.
There is inhumane treatment inside detention – it is prison under a different name.
There is no time limit and you can be held for weeks, months or years without knowing when you will be released.
The difference is that you have to commit a crime to go to prison, and you will know the length of your sentence.
In immigration detention, there is no time limit and you can be held for weeks, months or years without knowing when you will be released.
I am a proud and active member of the These Walls Must Fall campaign because I was detained when I was child, and my childhood made me feel that asking for justice is a crime.
Seeking sanctuary must not be seen as something illegal. Through this campaign l can champion the voices of fellow people in detention and share their experience, which can help to spread awareness and bring an to end detention.
It is most important to make the public aware of how their money is being wasted on this system, and for them to raise their voices against this inhumane system.
The British Red Cross has just released a major report calling for an overhaul of the UK’s immigration detention system and as parliament closed for recess on Tuesday, a government-commissioned review was released, which found various aspects of the detention system ‘deeply troubling’.
When councillors from every political party in Liverpool council supported a motion against detention, I was hopeful.
(Liverpool councilors take a photo on the day of the motion)
The motion said that the detention system was ‘inhumane’ and ‘not fit for purpose’ – and this is not the first time city representatives have supported us.
Last November, Manchester City Council became the first local authority in Britain to pass a motion condemning immigration detention and supporting the campaign.
Since then Cambridge, Brighton & Hove and Islington councils have followed suit.
Several MPs and MEPs from the region have supported us, including Julie Ward MEP and Shadow Immigration Minister Afzal Khan.
And it is not just politicians: trade unions, universities, students, pensioner groups, charities and members of the public have all supported the cause.
At the launch of the These Walls Must Fall campaign in Liverpool in May, 80 people came to hear from us.
As Chelsea Ningabire, a fellow activist with the These Walls Must Fall campaign in Liverpool, said after the council motion: ‘I saw friends who have been detained, how detention has affected them, and I live everyday in fear to be detained too.
‘Nobody should have to suffer this way just because they come from another country’.