Freed Voices: Kasonga

“People with experience of detention need to speak out about the reality of detention and shape what alternatives look like in light of their experiences. We understand the root of the detention system in a way others cannot and we must be part of the solution.”

“The ‘IRC’ stands for ‘Immigration Removal Centre’. ‘Removal’ is the key word here. From the very first day I was detained pending deportation, I knew I could not be returned because of Home Office Country Guidance. I asked my solicitor, the courts, and the Home Office the same question: ‘Why are you locking me up when you yourself acknowledge you cannot deport me?’

“The sense of injustice swells inside of me when I think about it. I felt like the specifics of my case were completely ignored – my long-term detention came down to the fact I was a foreigner, little else. My experience in detention broke the trust I had in the Government, and the country I have lived in for the last twenty years.”

“In 1994, there were 300 or so people in detention. Last year, nearly 30,000 people were detained. This feels like the biggest obstacle going forward in the push for alternatives. The routine must become the rare. In 1994 it was exceptional to put someone in detention. Now it is exceptional as a migrant in this country to not experience detention, in one way or another, directly or indirectly.

“But alternatives are a way for the Government to meet their immigration controls without criminalising migrants or depriving them of their liberty. They are cost-effective and efficient. They offer the Home Office a way to actually practice the policy they preach: to use detention as a last resort, not as a first resort. They are a way of addressing the inhumanity of the UK’s current approach.”

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