Article by Luke Butterly
Liverpool City Council has passed a cross-party motion against the use of detention in the UK’s immigration and asylum system. The motion is in support of the ‘These Walls Must Fall’ campaign, and states that the injustice of detention “cannot be addressed by improvements to conditions, or minor reforms to the way the system is operated.”
Councillors from all parties represented on the council – Labour, Green, Lib Dems, Liberals – supported the motion. Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, the Lib Dem Leader on the council said that the UK should be “judged by the way it treats people within its borders” and that the country’s detention system means it “shamefully fails” in this regard. Tom Crone, leader of Liverpool Greens, expressed his ‘wholehearted’ support for the motion and said “I want to see our country become more compassionate and welcoming to those fleeing persecution or war, or simply coming to contribute to our society.” Hattie Ditton, Casework and Advocacy Coordinator at MRANG, a charity that supports refugee and asylum-seeking women in Liverpool, said: “MRANG supports the campaign because indefinite detention is futile and cruel.”
A government-commissioned review published on Tuesday has found various aspects of the detention system “deeply troubling”.
The UK operates a vast immigration detention estate, one of the largest in Europe, with a dozen long- and short-term centres across our cities and towns, hidden away in the countryside, or next to airports. They are effective ‘black holes’ where basic legal, civil and human rights are deliberately placed out of reach. Over 30,000 people are locked up in prison-like conditions every year, with no time limit on how long they can be held. The negative impact on people’s mental & physical health can be long-term, while at the same time the Home Office systematically ignores medical advice to keep mentally ill immigrants in detention. Last year saw ten detainees die in different centres, often by suicide, making it the deadliest year on record.
Last month saw the Merseyside launch of ‘These Walls Must Fall’ campaign. Covered in Nerve, it saw over eighty people hear from experts-by-experience, activists, trade unionists, pensioners, and residents of Liverpool come together to coordinate challenges to detention in the immigration and asylum system.
The campaign is most active in Merseyside and Manchester, and has the support of various local groups including migrant rights organizations, trade unions, trade councils, universities, pensioner groups, and religious groups. It is led mostly be people themselves at risk of detention.
Among other work, campaigners have been securing support from councils. Last November, Manchester City Council become the first local authority in Britain to pass a motion condemning immigration detention. It was followed this April by Cambridge and Brighton & Hove. Three weeks ago Islington became the first council in London to endorse These Walls Must Fall.
Chelsea Ningabire, an activist with the These Walls Must Fall campaign in Liverpool, said: “I would like to thank the city council for supporting our campaign.
“Detention is affecting many people’s wellbeing, and I am campaigning with These Walls Must Fall because I saw friends who have been detained, how detention have affected them, and I live everyday in fear to be detained too. Nobody should have to suffer this way just because they come from another country.”
To find out more about the campaign, go to www.detention.org.uk