Below, we provide the response from Right to Remain to the BBC Panorama September 4th broadcast undercover footage filmed in Brook House detention centre.  The footage was recorded by a detainee custody officer and reveals self harm and attempted suicides, as well as widespread mistreatment and violence against detainees.

Diane Abbot has called for reform of immigration detention in a piece in the Huffington Post.  Stuart McDonald has also tabled an EDM calling for the introduction of a 28 day time limit to detention and wide ruse of community-based alternatives to detention.  We encourage City of Sanctuary groups to share with their supporters to be in touch with their MPs, using the helpful campaign tools from Detention Action here.  Below is a link to the Detention Forum, of which City of Sanctuary is a member. Now is the right time to contact you MP about the shame of our immigration detention system. You can see the Right to Remain original newsletter here.

“The footage was extremely upsetting – showing staff verbally abusing people in detention in very vulnerable situations, and reporting their own physically abusive behaviour.   The programme showed just how dehumanising detention is – of both those detained, and those that work there.  “If he dies, he dies” said one guard about a man severely in need of help.

Brook House is one of the UK’s nine detention centres where people are held indefinitely – there is no time-limit on immigration detention in the UK.  You can find out more here about Brook House from people who were detained there, including a letter by Ajay to his former pre-detention self, and a Q and A with ‘Jon’ who at the time of the interview had been detained for one and a half years – both part of last year’s Unlocking Detention which Right to Remain co-ran.

The undercover footage showed appalling and sickening behaviour by the detention centre guards.  We believe that this problem cannot be fixed by suspending or firing individuals – the problem is the system itself.

We spoke to the Morning Star about the revelations:

“[The revelations are] sickening but not shocking, because immigration detention is in itself abusive and hidden away from the public eye.

Detention is violent, harmful and immoral. It cannot be acceptable to deprive people of their liberty solely for the administrative convenience of the state.”

Around 30,000 people per year are detained, and many thousands more live with the fear of detention hanging over them. Those that are released from detention back into the community – and that’s more than half of those detained – find it difficult to recover from their experience.”

 

Find out more at the These Walls Must Fall website

 

“We must not let the government off the hook.  This appalling practice is their responsibility – and they can stop it.  Now is the time to speak to your MP and ask them to call for radical reform, now.”

 

Read the Detention Forum’s briefing for MPs here.

Below further comments from Right to Remain regarding the prevention of a forced removal by campaigners.

Preventing deportation can be a life-saving measure, but isn’t enough

 

Last week, campaigners successfully prevented the forced removal of Samim Bigzad from the UK on a Turkish Airways flight – Samim was being sent against his will to Afghanistan, where he would be in extreme danger.

As the Independent reported:

Campaigners travelled to Heathrow Airport to talk to unwitting passengers due to be on the same Turkish Airlines flight [as Samim], in the hope they would raise objections to crew members.

Bridget Chapman, who organised the trip, said activists “very quietly” approached tourists at the check-in gate to explain their flight was being used to forcibly deport Mr Bigzad.

“We asked people to do whatever they were comfortable with raising it with airline staff … Airport security asked us to stop after a while, but by that point most people had boarded.”

Airline pilots have a legal right to refuse to carry a passenger, as they are responsible for the “safety of the aircraft and of all crew members, passengers and cargo on board”.

Campaigners had already publicly encouraged Turkish Airways to refuse to carry Samim through airline campaigning, including through social media.  Read more about airline campaigning in our Toolkit here.

Samim’s cousin told the Independent:

“There were three guards who tried to force him onto the plane…my cousin was crying and shouting ‘I’m going to get killed in Afghanistan’

Samim said they were in the tunnel by the door when the pilot came out and said: ‘You’re not going to take him, I’m not flying. Someone’s life is at risk”

Right to Remain spoke to the Independent, and said that preventing deportations/forced removals in this way could be a “life-saving measure” that buys time for vital legal action to take place.

“It has saved lives and we know people after these interventions who have got the right to remain – so it has worked but it’s only one tool.It’s important to get something done but it’s not the end of the story – the Home Office will make another attempt.

There’s a long history of this kind of activism, not just in the UK but across Europe.

It can be anything from the detainee themselves quietly explaining their situation to crew members, or more vocally shouting about what happened to them.

Sometimes people have been praying and that has disturbed the people around them, who have alerted staff…this is exactly why the Government has started using charter flights.”

Preventing deportations can save lives … it can buy time. But other legal action is needed.  People need to understand their legal case and what their options are, and take action as soon as possible.

That’s why we produce the Right to Remain Toolkit, working with people going through and who have been through the UK’s maze-like asylum and immigration system.

 

Find the Toolkit online here

 

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