Remain, don’t detain
Two campaigns against immigration detention. Legal aid cuts hinder asylum seeker justice.
Two new campaigns against immigration detention will be launched this weekend at a conference in Manchester. The gathering, by members of the Right to Remain (R2R) organisation, takes place after successive governments have extended immigration controls from the point of entry into local communities and workplaces.
The numbers being placed in immigration detention centres have leapt in the last two decades from 300 at any one time to around 3,000. Last year more than 32,000 people were locked up on occasions in places such as Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and Pennine House at Manchester Airport.
According to Michael Collins, Right to Remain co-ordinator: “Many of those detained have actually got a right to be in the UK. Unfortunately, because of cuts to legal aid, access to justice in the legal system has been stripped away, especially for people on meagre incomes.
“Inexperienced civil servants are making decisions on people and taking away their liberties even though they’ve done nothing wrong. People are moved hundreds of miles from friends and family. Also, while detainees seek to get solicitors to represent them they can be confined indefinitely as the UK is the only European country not to have set a time limit on detention.
“Many people have rightly been campaigning against the appalling conditions at the detention centres. We now want to build new local campaigns in Manchester and Liverpool against detention. These will be called These Walls Must Fall. We aim to get civil society to say it is unacceptable for so many people to be detained without a time limit being set.”
Aderonke Apata, currently seeking asylum in the UK, fled Nigeria in 2004 after her partner was murdered because of her sexuality and Aderonke had a death sentence imposed on her by a sharia court. When she was detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire in 2011 she claims to have experienced homophobic abuse and intimidation on a regular basis. Other lesbian detainees who she befriended were attacked.
Apata stayed in the detention centre for almost a year and fears she could be returned at any time. She helped launch African Rainbow Family (AFR), which supports LGBT people of African heritage.
Aderonke and AFR both contributed to the 2016 All Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT Rights report.
6 BIG ISSUE NORTH 29 AUG – 4 SEPT 2016