In our latest blog, we remember the people behind the detention statistics.
Yesterday the UK government released its quarterly statistics on detention. As always, behind the stark columns of figures are the lives of thousands of people, blighted by indefinite detention.
At the end of September 2015, 3,531 people were in detention across the UK, the largest number since 2008. That’s 3,531 families torn apart. It’s children separated from parents, husbands separated from wives, friends separated from friends, and communities diminished and scarred.
Each one of those 3,531 people was deprived of their liberty without trial. A Home Office official, with no judicial oversight, decided that each one of them would be taken away from the people that care about them and locked up in Dungavel or one of the other places like it across the UK.
Each one of those 3,531 people has no idea how long they will remain in detention. And it can be a very long time. At the end of September 2015, 325 people had been in detention for more than six months. 136 had been in detention for more than a year and one person had been detained for more than four years.
The financial cost is huge. But the human cost is incalculable. As visitors to people in detention, we witness every week the harm detention does. People who enter detention in good physical and mental health become ill and depressed while living with the fear and uncertainty of indefinite detention. We also see the corrosive impact separating people from their families and friends can have on people in detention, and on the children, partners and friends who depend on them.
And for what? The government calls these places of detention “Immigration Removal Centres”. Their stated purpose is to remove people from the UK. But their own figures show how ineffective they are in doing so. In the third quarter of 2015, 59% of people leaving detention were released back into the community.
That’s 5,215 people.
The figures for Dungavel are even more shocking. 76% of people leaving detention from Dungavel were released back into the community.
That’s 299 people.
Why were these people detained in the first place? Why were their families, friends and communities deprived of them?
This has to change.