SDV’s Treasurer, Marion Fairweather, reports from a recent conference in Birmingham discussing issues affecting asylum seekers, refugees and immigration detainees
I am just back from a conference on the cheery subject of “detention, destitution and deportation”. It was organised by Quakers and I was there as the representative of the West of Scotland. Quakers have always been an active religion. They campaigned to abolish slavery, in support of prison reform and more recently for marriage equality.
One area of Quaker concern is the treatment of people who come to the UK seeking sanctuary. The conference was designed to look at how we can take practical action to better support asylum seekers, refugees and those trapped in immigration detention.
At the conference, over cups of tea and generous portions of rhubarb crumble, I spoke with other Friends who were involved in supporting detainees – from the grim environment of Yarl’s Wood, which has recently been in the news regarding its treatment of women, to the most recent immigration removal centre, The Verne, an incredibly remote former prison in Dorset.
We discussed the shocking fact that the UK is the only country in Europe that has no time limit on immigration detention. This can lead to huge costs (£39,000 a year per detainee), as well as having devastating effects on the mental and physical health of the people detained, their families and friends.
The conference was fortunate enough to hear from Jerome Phelps of Detention Action, who gave us much needed grounds for optimism. He believes there is a strong chance that a time limit for immigration detention will be introduced in the near future. There is a real momentum behind the current #Time4aTimeLimit campaign and it is likely to be supported by the forthcoming report of the recent parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention.
With the general election approaching, Jerome encouraged us to raise the issue with MPs and at hustings, and it’s an area where Scottish based supporters of a time limit can have a real impact. With polls suggesting the SNP could hold the balance of power after the election, this is a really important time to lobby SNP to support the time limit to immigration detention. We need to work to put this on the agenda and make all politicians in Scotland understand that a time limit on detention makes sense morally and financially.
Follow @SDVisitors, @DetentionForum and @DetentionAction on Twitter to keep up with all the news on the #Time4aTimeLimit campaign