Tag Archives: detention

Audio files of 1st February immigration detention seminar presentations

We are pleased to announce that audio files are now available for most of the presentations given on 1st February at the Supporting Immigration Detainees seminar. We hope that this will be a useful resource both for attendees and for those who were unable to be present on the day but would like more details of the discussions.

Recordings are available to download of the talks given by Ali McGinley from AVID, Adeline Trude of BID, Jerome Phelps of Detention Action, John Speyer of Music in Detention and Gill Baden of the Bail Observation Project. 

You can also listen to Ruhul, co-founder of the newsletter ‘Speak Out!’, who spoke of his first-hand experience in immigration detention, and Dr Lauren Martin of University of Oulu in Finland, who presented her experiences working with NGOs supporting immigration detainees in the USA.

All the recordings are available here: http://asylum-network.com/2013/02/05/successful-immigration-detention-seminar-held-on-1st-february-2013/  

The next seminar in the immigration detention series will be held in York in July on the topic of politics and detention, organised by Dr Alex Hall (Alexandra.Hall@york.ac.uk).  We hope to see you there!

Melanie Griffiths and Nick Gill


Successful immigration detention seminar held on 1st February 2013

Last Friday around 60 academics, NGO practitioners and ex-detainees gathered in London to kick start a series of inter-disciplinary immigration detention seminars that will be held in 2013 and 2014. The focus of this seminar was ‘supporting detainees’ and we heard from a number of organisations that support immigration detainees in various ways. We also heard from individuals with first-hand experience of being held in Immigration Removal Centres and who could provide insights into what helped them cope with the experience.

The first speaker was Ali McGinley (audio here), Director of AVID (the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees: http://www.aviddetention.org.uk/). Ali spoke of the different visitor groups connected to AVID and of the impact of visit programmes for detainees and volunteers alike. Next up was Adeline Trude (audio here), Research and Policy Director at BID (Bail for Immigration Detainees: http://www.biduk.org/). Adeline told attendees about the work of BID, from casework to research projects, monitoring and providing information for detainees wishing to apply for bail.

After the break and a brief preface from Nick Gill (audio here) the morning was completed with a paper presented by Dr Lauren Martin (audio here) from the University of Oulu in Finland: http://laurenmartin.wordpress.com/ Lauren described her experiences working with NGOs supporting immigration detainees in the USA and how she juggled her PhD with NGO work. Lauren identified a number of global trends relating to immigration detention, including the privatisation of such centres, the criminalisation of migrants and the externalisation of borders.

After a lunch of buzzing conversation and exchanges, we heard from five speakers with experiences of supporting immigration detainees. First up was Clare Sambrook, reporter and co-founder of End Child Detention Now (http://www.ecdn.org/). Clare spoke of the family that first brought the detention of children to her attention and her subsequent campaigning against child detention.

Clare was followed by presentations given by Jerome Phelps (audio here), Director of Detention Action (http://detentionaction.org.uk/) and ex-detainee Ruhul (audio here). Jerome discussed the visiting, support and campaign work of Detention Action (formerly known as the London Detainee Support Group). Ruhul spoke movingly about his experiences of several years in detention and the newsletter ‘Speak Out!’ that he has set up for other detainees, with support from Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (http://www.gdwg.org.uk/index.php). The first edition is available here: http://www.gdwg.org.uk/downloads/speakout01.pdf

Next up was John Speyer (audio here), Director of the organisation Music in Detention (http://www.musicindetention.org.uk/). John spoke passionately about the role of music in not only helping people cope with detention but in building links between detainees and others in the community. John also discussed the potential benefits of closer collaboration between academics and NGO practitioners.

The presentations were rounded off by a fascinating paper given by Gill Baden (audio here), of the Campaign to Close Campsfield (http://closecampsfield.wordpress.com/) and the Bail Observation Project. Gill described the first report of the Bail Observation Project, published in 2011 and which is available here: http://www.closecampsfield.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/ccc-bop-report-low-res.pdf The project had shown significant discrepancies between bail results according to the tribunal and judge involved in the hearings. A follow-up report is due to be published in April 2013, which will consider the impact of the newly introduced bail guidelines for Immigration Judges.

The day was completed with open floor discussion about the potential benefits of closer cooperation between academics and practitioners as well as specific issues raised by the day’s talks. There was a general sense that the coming together of activists, campaigners, ex-detainees and academics was an exciting and stimulating development. Keep an eye on the series’ website for audio recordings of the talks, which will be available soon: http://immigrationdetentionseminarseries.wordpress.com/.

The next seminar in the immigration detention series is being organised by Dr Alex Hall (Alexandra.Hall@york.ac.uk). It will held be in July 2013 in York and will consider the relationship between politics and detention. For more details of this and the other seminars, check out the website: http://immigrationdetentionseminarseries.wordpress.com/.

Thanks to all that presented and attended for contributing to the day! Looking forward to the next seminar in July.

Melanie Griffiths and Nick Gill

Social Media as advocacy and networking tool – more from the DWN conference

On Day 2 of the DWN conference I participated in a terrific hands-on workshop, hosted by Will Coley of Aquifer Media, on how to make the most of social media in advocacy and activism. Various groups of participants got to work using various tools, flip cams, audio recorders, stills cameras, and laptops for blog posts, and within a brief (15 minute) period each group compiled a short snapshot about the conference.
You can read the blog entry I helped work on here.

Workshop poster outlining Priorities in US Immigration Reform - DWN conference









The workshop was a terrific opportunity to make meaningful and accessible use of social media in the work of supporting immigrants, asylum seekers, and detained individuals.

What tools are you using in your organization? What kind of resources do you need to make the best use of the new media landscape? How can researchers help facilitate the opportunities social media presents in asylum advocacy and support? Let us know, send us your thoughts, experiences, successes and challenges by commenting here or by contacting us via email.

Protests Against Detention, Recognizing the Human Value of Immigrants

There has been an abundance of discussion lately about protests and their role in bringing about social and political change. From Egypt to Wisconsin protestors have taken to the streets and claimed their right, not just to the city—as Henri Lefebvre and others have declared—but also, and relatedly, as political actors seeking reform at regional and national scales.

Immigration advocates engage in their share of protests too. Recently, among the public demonstrations that have caught my attention is a series of protests against the proposed expansion of the Essex County immigrant detention facility in New Jersey (US).

The proposal to expand this facility, located in an economically depressed area of New Jersey (US), was announced in early 2011. The expanded immigrant detention center will hold up to 2,750 immigrants, an increase of 1,750 over current detention capacity at the facility. Proposed renovations to the existing center will, apparently, yield a ‘less penal setting’ that includes better access to amenities and medical care as well as more oversight by the federal government. According to a New York Times report on the proposal, immigration officials tout the expansion and upgrade as offering a ‘template for a new kind of detention center’.

Against this rhetoric immigrant advocacy groups are keen to remind us that all immigrant detention is deeply flawed and merely symptomatic of the ‘broken’ immigration system in the US. Several New York and New Jersey-based immigrant advocacy groups have organized protests and demonstrations to publicize concerns about the Essex County facility, to reiterate the need for alternatives to detention, and to highlight the pressing need to overhaul the immigration system as a whole. Last Wednesday (March 9th) representatives from almost 30 immigrant rights organizations in the tri-state area embarked on a walking protest from the Ellis Island footbridge—Ellis Island is the historic point of entry for immigrants to the US—to the Elizabeth Detention Center, located near Newark airport in New Jersey, a distance of approximately 12 miles. This protest marks the first of several public marches and events as part of a campaign to ‘recognize the human value of immigrants’. You can read more about the event here and here.

Recently, on our blog, we also reported on the student ‘sleep-out’ in solidarity with destitute asylum seekers at the University of Exeter—where two members of our UK team are based—this student protest was part of a week-long campaign, organized by Amnesty International and STAR, to raise awareness about asylum seekers in the UK.

What does your organization do to raise awareness about the needs of asylum seekers, detained immigrants, and the value of immigrants in our communities? What kinds of campaigns, public demonstrations, and inventive initiatives have you developed to challenge negative stereotypes, injustices, and misconceptions about asylum seekers? What has been the impact of these efforts? And, how might they be improved? Once again, we welcome your perspectives on these issues; feel free to comment here, or to contact us to share your experiences with campaigns to recognize the human value of asylum seekers and immigrants generally as members of our communities.


A happy Christmas for asylum-seeking families?

This time last week the Home Office finally announced the closure of the family wing of Yarl’s Wood, meaning no children will be detained there over Christmas, and a “new compassionate approach to family returns” (press release).

A tentative approval has been given to this by some organisations but concerns are already being raised about families remaining at Tinsley House (which has space for four families) and will still be used as a “last resort” (from HO press release – see link above).  Also, some organisations have accused the new approach to family return as re-branding detention rather than ending it.

Key to whether this is happy news or not, will be the way in which alternatives to detention will be implemented (for a review of options see Heaven Crawley’s paper on alternatives).  The Home Office’s press release is not detailed on the options that will be used…

“New options being developed include a form of short notice removal, the use of open accommodation, and – as a last resort where families resolutely fail to comply– family friendly, pre-departure accommodation, where we will allow children to have the opportunity to leave the premises subject to a risk and safeguarding assessment and suitable supervision arrangements.”  (from the HO press release)

Whether this will be a real improvement depends a lot on what ‘last resort’ means, what ‘open accommodation’ means and of course, what is involved in a “risk and safeguarding assessment and suitable supervision arrangements”.

Of course, the UK isn’t the only country to detain asylum-seeking families and children in other immigration categories too.  Whilst surfing the web yesterday I came across the website for the International Detention Coalition, which does research on detention, and has a special interest in children in detention including currently carrying out a multi-country survey of children in detention.  I look forward to reading the outcomes of their research.

See also, our earlier post regarding the channel 4 dispatches programme, The Kids Britain Doesn’t Want.

Human Rights Denied: Indefinite Immigration Detention

I went to a really inspiring workshop the other day, run by the London School of Economics (LSE) migration studies unit. It was discussing the way indefinite immigration detention is used in the UK including its increasing use and its serious mental health consequences. Jerome Phelps has done so much to help through his organisation, London Detainee Support Group, and Alison Harvey’s talk was also really clear and very useful. Helen Bamber desribed the current use of indefinite immigration detention in the UK as ‘sinister’. It certainly puts the debate about 28 days of locking up terror suspects without charge into perspective. To learn more check out the London Detainees Support Group website and the event website at Indefinite Detention, LSE, Migration Studies Unit.