Indefinite Lockdown: Immigration detention in the UK
Time & Location
About the Event
“It seems quite appropriate to talk of an indefinite lockdown, because people who have not been in immigration detention can relate to what it’s like, in a very small way, to be detained and being forcibly confined to their houses.” - Celia Clarke, BID Director
Bail for Immigration Detainees’ (BID) vision is of a world free of immigration detention, where people are never deprived of their liberty for immigration purposes. During this webinar, three BID representatives discussed immigration detention in the UK, the impact of COVID-19, and what it means to fight for the end of immigration detention.
Immigration detention is the process of incarcerating people who are subject to immigration control. As Celia explains, in the UK, there is no judicial oversight over this power to detain – the Secretary of State can detain anyone who is either waiting to be removed from the UK or waiting for a response to their immigration application, at any given point in time. Additionally, there is no time limit to how long the Secretary of State can keep people detained; people can be kept in detention for weeks, months or even years.
BID was established in 1998 by a group of activists. At the time, people were detained in very low numbers, so ending the practice seemed well within reach. These activists’ plan was to apply for bail for every single person in immigration detention at that point in time, get everyone released, while simultaneously doing policy work and research to convince the then Labour government that immigration detention was unnecessary. The aim was to do this through a mixture of research, policy and advocacy. As the number of people being detained went up over the years, BID has tried to stay true to those goals, but casework has inevitably become more central to the organisation’s operations simply due to the sheer number of people requiring help with their bail applications. Still, BID’s work is not only about trying to get people in immigration detention released, but also about changing the system that keeps them there.
BID’s Assistant Director Pierre Makhlouf discussed a few concrete examples of this policy and advocacy in the form of BID’s participation in strategic litigation to change the laws that allow the Home Office to keep people in immigration detention in the first place. In doing so, BID uses their own expertise as well as links to expert advocates in the City.
As the entity that holds the power to detain individuals, the Home Office also has the power to spontaneously release them. Unsurprisingly, this rarely happens. The only other way for immigration detainees to be released is if they apply for immigration bail. As part of their induction, detainees are told they can apply for bail, but many individuals do not know their rights or how to exercise them. This is where BID’s casework comes in: spreading awareness and helping immigration detainees make their bail applications.
Adam Spray, Legal Manager at BID, explained what this work is like on the front-line, having dealt with people in detention on a daily basis. He also discussed what it has been like since the pandemic. He discussed how whilst travel restrictions are in place and the number of people in detention has dropped drastically, BID’s work has never been more essential.
Despite the obstacles of COVID-19, BID has kept going for the sake of their clients and their mission to end detention. We are incredibly impressed by their determination and hard work.
We are very grateful to BID for having taken the time to speak at this webinar. If you are interested in BID's work, visit their website (https://www.biduk.org/). You can also donate through the following link: https://www.biduk.org/pages/67-support-our-work
If you missed it you can watch the webinar on YouTube!