The human cost of inhuman policies


The human cost of inhuman policies

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Written by: Frances Webber


Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) has issued a moving report on the experiences of those held in immigration detention.

Some of the questions which immediately spring to mind on reading this heartbreaking and shaming report are: how can this situation have been allowed to arise? how can it be allowed to continue? how can we put a stop to it? Every time a report on the treatment of immigration detainees comes out, the same questions arise. The situation which, Out of sight, out of mind: experiences of immigration detention in the UK, like its predecessors, describes is monstrous. Hundreds, thousands of people locked away indefinitely. People losing all their possessions with no redress. People who are ill being deprived of vital medication. Young children suffering post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of arrest and detention in the UK. Grandfathers locked up for deportation on driving offences after nearly forty years living here, their children and grandchildren all born here.

The voices of those detained are puzzled, distraught, angry – and thankful for the chance of being heard. They are the voices of people who don’t understand why the response to their claim for sanctuary is indefinite imprisonment. Thirty thousand people pass through immigration detention annually, over two-thirds of them people who have come to the UK seeking sanctuary. Many are locked up for over a year. They are being penalised for nothing they have done, but are paying the price of government’s populist responses to tabloid demands to ‘get tough on immigration’. By creating a whole raft of immigration ‘offences’, by making it illegal to work, and by rhetorically painting asylum seekers as fraudsters, successive governments have created a climate where such detention has become publicly acceptable. It is as if ‘they’ – the asylum seekers and other migrants who are detained – deserve it, simply for being who they are, what they are.

In this desperate situation, the unsung work BID does is invaluable – in helping detainees apply for bail, providing self-help manuals, sometimes providing lawyers to challenge prolonged detention, and not least, in reports such as this one, giving voice to those paying the human price for Home Office policies.

Related links

Download a copy of Out of sight, out of mind: experiences of immigration detention in the UK (pdf file, 1.9mb)


Out of sight, out of mind: experiences of immigration detention in the UK by Bail for Immigration Detainees can be downloaded at the link below.


The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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Niki Adams
Niki Adams
10 years ago

We had the privilege to have worked with Sonia (David) Burgess. She was not only creative, principled and thorough; she was compassionate and respectful to her clients, and accountable to the wider movement for justice. While she paid scrupulous attention to the legal work needed to make the strongest case in court, she worked with campaigners who gathered public support. She recognised that changing the political climate outside court was also crucial to winning justice. Almost uniquely she confronted those in her profession who were lazy, neglectful and even corrupt. In 1997 she wrote about the devastating consequences of malpractice: “in the field of asylum work it is a truth known to practitioners that legal representation can kill.” We are shattered to have lost such a caring human being so early and in such tragic circumstances. The standard she set is one which all lawyers must be held to. Niki Adams, Legal Action for Women Crossroads Women’s Centre 230A Kentish Town Road London NW5 2AB

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