Today, Detention Action are releasing a new report, ‘The State of Detention‘.
This report assesses the state of immigration detention in 2014.
Detention can be seen in many ways: through official statistics, legal judgments, monitoring reports, visits to detention centres, or through being detained yourself. This report brings together and reflects on many of these partial perspectives on detention, in order to understand the key problems of the detention system.
We believe that a picture emerges of the state of detention today. It is a picture of a system in crisis.
- This is a crisis of over-extension. Detention has expanded too fast, with insufficient checks and scrutiny. Political priorities to detain and deport have overridden practical considerations of effectiveness, as well as basic concern for those detained.
- The UK is alone in detaining migrants indefinitely, without time limit, for periods of years. Many in detention are unreturnable and ultimately are released – their detention serves no purpose, yet costs them years of their lives.
- The UK is alone in Europe in routinely detaining migrants in prisons, a practice that is unlawful in the rest of the EU. It is alone in detaining large numbers of asylum seekers, simply for administrative convenience in processing their cases.
- Migrants in detention face return to some of the most dangerous places on the planet. The UK is at the forefront of attempts to return asylum-seekers to countries like Somalia and Sri Lanka, despite evidence of violence and persecution.
- The UK is generating a unique quantity of evidence of the harm done to migrants by detention. The Home Office has been found six times to have caused inhuman or degrading treatment to mentally ill migrants in its care. Detention has been shown to cause as well as exacerbate mental illness. The safeguards that should protect vulnerable migrants simply do not work. People are leaving detention with their mental health in ruins.
- There are alternatives. Ever more evidence is emerging that the immigration control justifications for detention can be met by engaging with migrants in the community. Reliance on detention looks like inertia rather than strategy.
We hope that this report can be a guide to the evidence, as well as a tool for change. We are not objective, but we do understand detention. We have been working with people in Immigration Removal Centres, prisons and in the community after release, from Dorset to Heathrow to Middlesbrough. Some of the authors of this report have been detained, losing months or years of their lives in the process. Some are still in detention; all of us know many people still there.
For their sake, detention reform needs to begin now.