BID and 40 other organisations have today written to the Home Secretary calling for the urgent release of people detained under immigration powers in prison.
It is our view that all immigration detention is inherently harmful and should be ended entirely but the use of prisons for this purpose is even more damaging, particularly during a pandemic. This injustice is so catastrophic that urgent action is needed. Please add your support to our letter by emailing your MP.
Email your MP
There is a grave crisis unfolding in prisons in the UK. Coronavirus is spreading more rapidly through prisons than ever before. Data published on the 13th November shows 1,529 people have now contracted COVID-19 across 89 sites in the prison estate. Meanwhile the number of people detained in prisons under immigration powers has increased.
Our clients are held in prison purely under immigration powers. They have served their sentence and are held for administrative purposes while the government arranges their deportation.
We have long opposed the practice of detaining people in prison for immigration purposes due to the highly punitive conditions, lack of safeguards for vulnerable people and lack of legal advice to enable people to end their detention and challenge their deportation.
Following the implementation of highly draconian measures to prevent the spread of the virus in prisons, conditions have worsened and we are extremely concerned about the welfare of people detained in prisons.
Our clients are generally locked in their cells for at least 23 hours per day. Many are only allowed out of their cells for 30 minutes or less. And those under quarantine or instructed to shield by the prison are in some cases locked on their cells 24 hours a day. This has been the case since March.
In August a report from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) warned:
“continued severe regime restrictions in prisons – at times amounting effectively to solitary confinement – have created a real risk of psychological decline among prisoners”.
In prisons communication with the outside world is highly restricted – there is no access to the internet, faxes or mobile phones. Most prisons only allow phone calls of 10 minutes at a time, and in most cases these calls must be made during the time a prisoner is allowed out of their cell. Legal visits – scarce prior to the pandemic – have been cancelled. Immigration legal advice and representation which is scant during normal times is now virtually impossible to access.
People held in immigration detention in prisons face the prospect of likely infection with COVID-19, under a severe lockdown regime with no end in sight. This is not only a deprivation of liberty, this is inhumane. It is difficult to conceive of a more silenced and marginalised group, made vulnerable to severe mistreatment by an overwhelming lack of support and political voice.
How you can help:
- Email your MP using our template and online tool (please forward any replies to [email protected])
- Tweet your MP “People held in prison under immigration powers face likely infection with COVID-19 & severe lockdown conditions making it virtually impossible to challenge their detention & deportation. Call on the government to end this inhumane treatment https://bid.eaction.org.uk/BIDWritetoMP ”
- Donate towards our work providing legal advice and representation to people detained in prison
If you or someone you know are affected by this issue our advice line is open 10am to 12 noon Monday to Thursday 020 7456 9750.