The Time Has Come to Put the Limit on Immigration Detention – Vigil on 31st October

The Forum, as a member of Citizens UK, is helping to organise a candlelight vigil to remember those who have died in immigration detention – the UK’s current practice of detaining people for purely administrative purposes. We want to show solidarity and friendship for the families hurt by this unacceptable practice and to let all detainees know that they are not forgotten. We are asking for an end of indefinite detention. 

Detaining people indefinitely in prison-like conditions without judicial oversight is unjust, ineffective, costly and inhumane. It destroys lives and breaks up families. This year, we welcomed the launch of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention, which we hope will make recommendations that will improve position of migrants and refugees who end up detained indefinetely, having committed no crime.

Currently, Britain is the only country in Europe that holds refugees and migrants in immigration detention with no time limit. No judge or magistrate is asked to approve or oversee their imprisonment.  The decision to lock them up is made by civil servants. Alleged criminals can be detained for 72 hours and alleged terrorists for 28 days. Migrants and refugees are neither.

Many of The Forum’s members have experienced detention, so we encouraged them to contribute to the Inquiry. In total, 12 of our members put in individual submissions, and we also joined Detention Action, Right to Remain, and Jesuit Refugee Service to put in collective submissions of some of the disturbing experiences in detention our members have shared with us. They told us of unnecessary humiliation and lack of dignity in treatment by detention staff, failures to provide adequate medical care, difficulties accessing legal advice or support, failures to take people’s experiences of trauma into account, a culture of disbelief and failure to support the vulnerable and, related to that, self-harm or deaths in detention as a result of people’s uncertainty about release and related stresses.

Many of our members require specialist psychological treatment as a result of torture, trafficking or other trauma related to their migration – these mental health issues were exacerbated by their experience in detention, and appropriate care was not given. The medical and health impacts of detention on those who have experienced torture or similar have been well documented by organisations such as the Helen Bamber Foundation. Those we support reported experiences during and after detention that echoes this evidence, including flash-backs, depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies.


Our own organisational submissions are now available online: what struck me as we were working with our members to decide what evidence the Inquiry needed to hear was the fear so many people had, and their anxiety about being identified. Having fled torture, persecution or abuse, and then having suffered the humiliations of immigration detention – sometimes for years – the fear of reprisals from the Home Office keep many people silent and too afraid to speak out to challenge the injustice they face.

You can read more of our perspectives at our Open Democracy blog.

Immigration detention used to be the last resort in administration of removals. In 1993 the number of people in detention was 250.  In 2013 nearly 30,000 people were detained, many for months and some for years. £76 million per year is wasted on the long-term detention of migrants. In 2009/10 The Home Office paid out £12 million in compensation and legal costs arising from unlawful detention.

The human cost of indefinite detention is immeasurable. The evidence of trauma and suffering is heartbreaking. Families are torn apart and lives are ruined in the name of administrative convenience. Since 2013 nearly 400 suicide attempts were recorded.

Vulnerable people, including women who suffered sexual violence, are not given proper medical or legal attention. Tragically, since January 2013, five people have died while in detention.

The Forum, alongside Citizens UK, London Churches Refugee Network, Detention Action and other organisations, are asking for refugees and migrants to be treated with dignity while they are here, on their way in the country and on their way out. To restore dignity on the way out we believe indefinite detention for immigration purposes must end.

The event will be held on Friday 31st October, from 6.30pm to 7.30pm at St John’s Church in Hoxton, Pitfield Street, London N1 6 NP.

Please join us to hear from people who have experienced detention, reflect on those who have suffered in immigration detention, and urge people to call for an end to indefinite detention.

Please register your attendance on Eventbrite and share this invite with your colleagues:


Where: St John’s Church in Hoxton, Pitfield St, London, N1 6NP.

The church is situated at the junction of New North Rd and Pitfield St, a short walk from Old St or Hoxton stations, and close to the 271 and 394 bus routes. 

WhenFriday, 31st October 2014 from 18:30 to 19:30

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