In this blog post, SDV director Kate Alexander reflects on what she learns from our visit reports.
Every three months, I sit down and compile our visit statistics. In order to do that, I have to systematically go through the reports our visitors prepare after every visit.
We want our visitors to concentrate on supporting people in detention so the report is short and simple. It’s designed to capture basic, numerical information about what we do: how many visitors were there; how many people did we see at the visit; what items did we provide for them; what follow-up did we agree to do, and so on.
All of this is really useful information. It enables us to monitor what we do and it’s information we can use in funding applications and feedback to existing funders and donors. I also like collating it: I like a spreadsheet and a nice table, but that’s just me.
But every time I do this task, it’s the other stuff that comes out of the reports that stops me in my tracks. It’s the stuff that’s revealed in the few words visitors write to let other visitors know what’s happening for the people we visit. It’s the stuff that really shows what detention does to people affected by it.
So let me share some of that information with you. First the numbers.
In the second quarter of 2016:
- We travelled to Dungavel 23 times and visited 50 people in total (43 men and 7 women).
- The average number of people seen at each visit was 7.4. But the number varied widely from visit to visit. The largest number seen was 12 and the smallest was 3.
- We provided 150 phone cards to help people keep in touch with their friends, family and legal representatives.
- 34% of the people we visited received just one visit. By contrast, 16% received 10 or more visits.
- One person received his 41st visit.
And now that other stuff, in brief quotations from the reports:
“Please make Y a priority for visit. She’s missing her husband who can’t visit her.”
“A still seems very vulnerable. He’s been detained for months now.”
“S is very stressed and anxious. He can’t imagine being ‘returned’ to a country he’s not lived in since he was a child.”
“K is very frustrated and unhappy as bail has been refused again. That’s the third time.”
“A difficult visit. Two people disclosed they had been tortured.”
“J was missing her family down south but she doesn’t want them to visit. It would be too upsetting.”
So much heartache revealed in so few words. But this is the reality of indefinite detention in the UK. It’s the experience of the 30,000 people the Home Office detains every year. And it’s also the experience of the families and friends who miss them on the outside.
Thanks to all our visitors for their hard work.
We’re recruiting new visitors. If you would like to join us, visit get involved to find out more.