In the 14th post in our series #NSUNCovidLife, Red from Freed Voices calls for the release of people detained in immigration detention. Watch the previous video in our series here.
We are living very difficult and challenging times these days in the whole world and the UK is not an exception of this situation. The number of deaths as a result of Covid-19 have exceeded the prediction of 20,000 even before the end of April 2020. The country is in lock down in an effort to avoid the spread of the virus, reduce the number of people that can get infected and also the number of deaths. This has been a huge hurdle to negotiate not only in economic terms but also in human ones. The extended period of home confinement for most people has put their mental health to the toughest test in many years. Our way of life has significantly changed.
The circumstances are complicated everywhere but in immigration detention centres, difficulties go to an extreme degree due to the level of suffering people have to go through everyday.
I have been in this situation. I was held in immigration detention for 10 months and that experience is hard and painful to describe. The treatment received by those held in immigration detention should not be given to human beings. In detention, we are treated like a number. People become estranged from the outside world, from their families and their communities. Detention centres are places where depression, loneliness, frustration and suicide attempts are commonplace, even before the Covid-19 crisis.
It is difficult to imagine how hard it must right now for those in detention. The level of fear and anxiety those people are going through, knowing that COVID is in the centres and if there is an outbreak, which is very likely given the unsanitary and cramped conditions, the consequences could be disastrous.
The UK’s controversial system of indefinite immigration detention is inhumane. But even taking the system as it is, the only lawful justification for keeping someone in detention is to facilitate their immediate removal from the UK. During this crisis, with travel restrictions preventing removals, there is no reason to keep any one in detention.
This is a time when people should be with their families and loved ones. The immediate release of all the people held in detention would ease the pain for them and their loved ones. It would keep people safe. It is the only sensible and humane thing to do in this crisis.
The human contact with family, friends and volunteers is an important lifeline for those in immigration detention and is a way for them to keep hope alive, to look beyond the walls and the barbwire they are surrounded by. But what is currently happening is the total opposite: hundreds of people are still held in detention centres and the suspension of all external visits has taken away that one least comfort they had. Now, people are suffering. None of this is helping people to be safe from Covid-19 in immigration detention – and the situation is only getting worse.
In addition to the poor hygiene conditions, we also have the general state of depression of many people in detention due to the uncertainty situation that they are forced to go through indefinitely. Nevertheless all this pain could be alleviated. The Government could choose to end this suffering of hundreds of people locked up in immigration detention without putting their lives at grave danger.
All people held in detention must be released so that they can practice safe social distancing that is impossible to practice in those places and pass this crisis time period with peace of mind. During a time of crisis where an unseen enemy is ripping apart the whole world, no one should be held in immigration detention. They should live in the community; with their families, friends and loved ones. No one should be left behind.
Alleviate the pain.
Freed Voices is a group of experts by experience dedicated to speaking about the realities of UK immigration detention and calling for reform.