Adil* arrived in the UK 25 years ago and lives in Coventry. He and his British wife now have 5 children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old, all of whom are also British citizens.
After serving half of a 3-year sentence, Adil was held in immigration detention. He says
“I was living at home with my family before detention, doing normal things, taking them to school, living together. In 2013, I made a mistake and went to prison, and everything changed. There was no income coming from me after that, so it has been difficult for my family.”
Being detained once was bad enough. But what followed has been a damaging cycle of release and re-detention for weeks or months at a time, despite remaining compliant with his bail conditions when at liberty. To date, he has been held in detention 6 times, with his longest detention lasting over 4 months in 2019.
“[Detention] is worse than prison. If you’re in prison, you know you will do your time and go home. In detention, you don’t know when you are gonna go home. It’s a horrible place to be, you got people with mental health problems, people doing drugs, and no one cares about it. They treat you like nothing. They give you the same food every day, even though they change the name of the food and say it is different.”
Adil’s whole family was devastated by his detention. He spoke to us at length about the effect that repeated periods of detention have had on them.
“Detention had a huge effect on my family. I didn’t know what was happening with my older daughter, who began self-harming and still has mental health problems and is still on medication. In 2017, she tried to kill herself.”
“My wife lost her job while I was in detention because she had to take care of the children, and she tried to kill herself because she can’t cope. She is British, but she is from Somalia originally, and we don’t have any family in this country. If I’m inside, there is no one to help her”
“Being separated from my family was very hard. I was detained in London and my family lives in Coventry, so every 2-3 weeks, they came to see me, when they could. The little one was always asking ‘Daddy when are you coming home? Why don’t you come back with us’. The little one didn’t understand why I was detained… Outside of the detention, social services was asking my kids all kinds of questions about me. Whenever I would have to check in, the little ones ask ‘are you not coming back?’ ‘why are you going there?’, when they see me getting on a bus or leaving the house.”
“My boys had to stop going to football because there was no one to take them. I was getting messages every week from the school about my son, who started bad behaviour, and my wife would say they wouldn’t come home from school and they stay out late. If I’m home, they never do these situations, and they are always at school and they come home on time. They don’t listen to mom. So only me, if I’m around, they behave. That’s why my wife is going mental, and they don’t listen to her, she lose her job, and everything comes on her head. I am feeling bad for her and there’s nothing I can do. “
Adil submitted protection and human rights claims which were refused, and after his custodial sentence he was served with a deportation order. After exhausting the appeals process, Adil submitted an Independent Social Worker report in order to demonstrate the emotional and mental toll his continued detention had had on his wife, who had to revert to being the sole carer for their children every time Adil was detained.
Every time he was held in detention, Adil tried to keep himself busy with work to keep his mind off of the exceedingly negative environment he faced inside.
”It’s a hard life, you see sometimes people try to kill themselves, every time I am inside there. Because they can’t cope, because it’s hard. I tell myself I need to be with my family – my kids are gonna struggle, they still need me. I can speak to them on the phone every morning before school, after school. I can’t kill myself, because I want to be with them again”
He also recounted the disrespect with which some of the guards treated him.
Some people think we are nothing, in detention, but we are human like them. 98% inside [detention] are foreigners, so sometimes the guards would say “go back to your country”.”
“A lot of people will be far away from their families. People can’t spend the money on private solicitor, so they stay in detention. I meet the same people in detention who I saw the last time I was there. Detention is a business, they take people and keep them inside. That’s what happens to me, they take me away from my family.”
BID believes that the way that the Home Offices assesses the likelihood that somebody will abscond is highly problematic. In particular, we rarely see evidence that the Home Office has considered how an individual’s strong family life might reduce the likelihood that they would abscond. Adil felt he had been treated unfairly in this way as well.
“The Home Office never sends me any letters or anything in the post. The only thing they do is wait for me to sign, and they might put me in detention, they don’t give me time to appeal, even though they know I’m not gonna run, they know I want to be with my family.”
BID has assisted Adil twice during his time in detention, and was successful with his most recent application for bail in 2019. Adil is currently back home with his family, and his asylum case is ongoing.
“Some people have been put in there, no way to be removed, and they need money for a solicitor. BID helps people to be together with their families again. It’s fair and it is a human right, and we need things like that – human rights. They know a person in detention is a human, and you can’t put them inside for no reason.” I think BID has to continue fighting for people, for human rights. People inside detention know that if they had BID fighting for them today, they would be out.”
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of our client