The latest immigration stats show the futility of detention
This article was written by Mishka, a member of the Freed Voices group. Freed Voices are a collective of experts-by-experience committed to speaking out about the realities of immigration detention in the UK. Between them, they have lost over 20 years to detention in this country. Mishka writes under a pseudonym.
Last week the government released their latest quarterly immigration statistics for the year ending June 2018. I was particularly interested in the stats relevant to immigration detention, which consist of both rather welcoming and alarming figures.
26,215 people entered detention in the year ending June 2018. This is a 6% reduction compared with June 2017. This is the third consecutive year we are seeing a decrease in the number of people entering detention. Also, 1,905 people in detention (excluding HM prisons) at the end of June 2018 is a 36% decrease compared with the previous year. I consider this as something positive.
However, the 26,215 figure still does not imply that the Home Office is using detention only as a last resort. I also looked at the number of people leaving detention for the year ending June 2018 – which is 27,481. It is comical that the number of people removed from the UK is only 45% of this 27,481. This is means that 55% people have been released back into the community.
I do not see any basis for detaining people in the first place, if 55% of them were released back into the community. This shows that ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ are not fit for purpose. It looks like the time has come for the government to change the name ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ to ‘Immigration 50% Removal Centres’.
It was also alarming to read the figures of suicide attempts denoting that 159 people had tried to commit suicide. When suicide attempts become normal anywhere in our society, this is an indication that there is something very wrong. During the last two weeks of my detention, there were so many suicide attempts in Harmondsworth that there were not enough staff members to fulfil the demands for ’24 hours suicide watch’. Four years have passed, but these stats show that this situation is ongoing.
As someone with direct experience of detention, I know the trauma of being deprived of your liberty, which is augmented by the lack of access to justice to come out of that situation. The indefinite of nature of detention makes this much worse. This is why it is important to have a 28 day time limit to make sure that the Home office cannot stock people indefinitely – even when there is no realistic prospect of removal.
There are members in our Freed Voices group who have been detained for months and years, and now they have status in this country. What was the basis of their detention – including the enormous financial waste and the incalculable human cost? This is one of the reasons why we need a 28 day time limit urgently.
A 28 day time limit on detention goes hand-in-hand with community-based alternatives. The resources currently being used for inhumane and inefficient indefinite detention can be used for this purpose. Proper case management can provide a meaningful linkage between the individual, the community and the authorities. This can also result in migrants developing trust in the immigration system.