By Lauren Cape-Davenhill
The ‘These Walls Must Fall‘ campaign aims to highlight that residents of Merseyside are being taken from local communities, locked up in far-off detention centres with no time limit, with no idea of when they might be released.
At the recent Merseyside ‘These Walls Must Fall’ launch, over eighty people heard from experts-by-experience and other campaigners at the Blackburn Centre. Hosted by the local support organisation MRANG, Liverpool Trades Council, the Merseyside Pensioners Association, and members of migrant support groups LARA and MAMA, people proposed some great ideas for action to take forward to challenge detention locally.
Activists spoke about their experiences of detention, gave accounts of their own detention, and updates about work and successes in other parts of the country. Eight of the These Walls Must Fall migrant campaigners stood at the front of the packed room and gave strong, clear and compelling accounts of they were campaigning against immigration detention.
The group is keen to stress that the hostile environment doesn’t just affect refugees and migrants, it affects us all. It starts with the government, reaches deep into our communities, and ends with people in detention centres like Yarl’s Wood and Brook House.
Ed, from the expert by experience group Freed Voices, spoke about how detention operates in practice, and his own experience of being detained for ten months: “detention is the most difficult and hard experience – and I don’t wish that experience not even on my worst enemy.”
He said that the protests outside of detention centers “are vital for morale inside detention, they tell you you’re not alone. But protesting outside detention is not enough. Push your MP, push your local councillor.”
Angela Kehoe-Jones, secretary of Wavertree Constituency Labour Party, said that she did research about detention in preparation for the meeting and was “absolutely horrified” about what she learnt. “I want to be part of the solution and part of the challenge against this inhumane policy. I think its scandalous. I want to be part of the challenge to that.”
Towards the end of the event, inspired by the earlier speeches, people have asked to address the crowd: “We need safety, if we are detained here just as we feared back home – what’s the difference between UK and where I fled?”
Martin Ralph, on the UCU Committee at Liverpool University gave a rousing speech on the need to come together “to build in a common way for a common goal – that these walls must fall, and these detention centres must close”.
TWMF is growing
In addition to Merseyside, a local campaign has set up in Greater Manchester, with other areas ready to follow suit.
The campaign has received support all areas from the Shadow Immigration Minister Afzal Khan to BAFTA winning actor Paul Brannigan, as well as councillors across countless communities. Last November, Manchester City Council became the first local authority in Britain to pass a motion against immigration detention, and supporting the TWMF campaign. Last month, following calls from local campaigners, councillors in Cambridge and Brighton & Hove proposed and pass similar motions.
Tom, a student at the University of Liverpool said that he knew knew very little about detention before coming to the launch event, but “I’ve left knowing a lot more about it, and I want to get involved and want to help.”
Among the great plans for action that came from the meeting were:
- Passing union motions and getting support of constituency political parties
- Raising awareness in the community, including churches and schools, and having stalls at local events
- Demonstrations and rallies
- Getting support of local councils and MPs
- Using social media to spread the word
- Linking the campaign against detention with other issues such as homelessness
And coming up this month, coming up this month, here are some These Walls Must Fall campaign actions to get involved in:
MRANG would like to invite people to the following detention-themed actions:
Friday 15th June, 12-2pm (WOMEN ONLY). Creative session to make campaign-themed artwork for Refugee Week
MRANG drop-in, All Saints Church, 55 Sheil Rd, Liverpool, L6 3AD
Wednesday 20th June, 6pm. MRANG Refugee Week event – with a These Walls Must Fall flavour
The Blackie, 1 Great George St, Liverpool, L1 5EW
Contact: Hattie, MRANG: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 27th June, 5.30-7pm. Taking to the streets – planning meeting
There was a lot of interest at the launch in taking the campaign to the streets – so let’s make it happen!
Jack Jones House, 1 Islington, L3 8EG
Contact: Lauren, Right to Remain: email@example.com