LibLink: Sarah Teather: It’s clear our system of immigration detention isn’t working

Sarah Teather has been writing for the Huffington Post in the wake of the report on immigration detention released the other day. She started with a shocking story:

One such occasion took place last July. I was sat in a committee room in the House of Commons, chairing the first evidence session of an inquiry into immigration detention. We were talking, via a phone link, to a young man who was being held in one of the giant detention centres next door to Heathrow.

He told us about how he had ended up in the UK. At the age of 16, he had been trafficked from his home on the Nigeria/Cameroon border to Hungary. He told us how he was “put in a basement, beaten, raped and tortured”. He managed to escape and then found himself in London, a stranger. Then he was detained.

I asked him how long he had been in detention. His answer caused those in the room to gasp.

“Three years”.

Three years he had been in detention, locked up not because he had broken the law but for immigration purposes. A young man who had been the victim of some horrendous abuse had arrived in the UK and instead of being given support and treatment, was locked away indefinitely.

She looks to the example of Sweden as a much more humane system where people are treated with respect:

The approach of the Swedish system could not be starker when compared to the UK. If you ever visit a detention centre in the UK, you will feel like you’re entering a prison. You are surrounded by barbed wire, keys jangle from the waists of the guards, and the cells are exactly that, cells.

Compare this with Sweden, where staff refer to detainees as “customers” and say that their aim is to make sure people leave with their heads held high.

Despite this difference in approach, Sweden, and other countries with similar systems, have high levels of compliance with the immigration system. This is because rather than focusing on costly enforcement procedures at the end of the process, they engage with individuals early on, making sure that people feel like they are being treated with dignity and respect from the time they make their application.

This approach allows migrants to live in their communities while their cases are resolved, rather than be in constant fear that they could be detained at any time. Not only is this approach better for those individuals in the system, but it’s also considerably cheaper.

You can read the whole article here.

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8 Comments

  • Philip Thomas 5th Mar '15 - 8:51pm

    There need to be time limits on immigration detention. Other European countries have them.

  • Jack Davies 5th Mar '15 - 9:51pm

    I’m actually submitting an emergency motion to conference based upon this issue.

  • How do we get staff who WILL comply with these new, more humane,requirements? It requires, first, an acknowledgment of the, apparemntly, huge level of racism in the immigration and associated “services”, then a massive change of culture, with many people having to leave.

  • Ch 4 News has run a feature on immigration detention each day this week —
    http://www.channel4.com/news/yarls-wood-immigration-detention-removal-centre-undercover

    Yarl’s Wood has a 14 year history of shameful mismanagement.

    Having such places at all is a questionable use of £ MILLIONS of public money.
    Having such places run by private sector companies whose only objective is to make maximum possible profit out of the misery of those people locked up is madness.
    This Coalition Government has worshipped the false god of the free market. The results are plain for all to see.

  • Philip Thomas 6th Mar '15 - 8:40am

    Well, the Swedish approach uses fewer staff. But time limits, which is a baby step in the Swedish direction, doesn’t really require a culture shift at all.

  • If only we had libdems in government to stop this…

  • Philip Thomas 15th Mar '15 - 5:48pm

    Does anyone know what the average amount of time spent in immigration detention is? Even roughly?

  • Philip Thomas 15th Mar '15 - 5:53pm

    http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/immigration-detention-uk
    sort of answers my question: well over 50% of detainees are kept for less than 28 days (which surprised me).
    So the 28-day limit looks quite plausible really.

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