Over 150 people a year volunteer with BID offering their time and expertise to help people in detention fight for their liberty. As we prepare to say goodbye to Isabel and Frank we caught up with them about their experiences.
Isabel has been volunteering with BID for a year, first in the casework team and then in our dedicated prison team working with people detained in prisons.
What is a day at BID like?
“In the Prison Team, my day consisted of getting in at around 10, having a quick catch up with Jess [Prisons' Project Legal Manager] and other volunteers on what has happened since I was last in, then checking through any emails and post received, followed by making my to-do list for my clients, running this and my work via my supervisor and getting started on work. I’d be contacting the Home Office and Probation Officers, writing to clients, sending off applications for accommodation, and of course preparing bail applications. We usually have lunch all together, and then get back to work before leaving at around 5. I like to bounce ideas off the other people in the Prison Team and the other Legal Managers throughout the day.”
How would you describe your experience?
“I have had an amazing time volunteering at BID and am very sad to leave. I’ve learned a lot and have become more sure that this is the kind of work I want to continue to do. I’ll always remember when I got the news that a client whose case I’d been working on for many months, who I’d visited twice - and who’d been denied bail several times was finally granted bail. I called his mum straight away and it was so lovely to share that moment of joy with her.”
Why do you think it is important to challenge immigration detention?
“It’s important to challenge immigration detention because it shouldn’t exist. We as a society should not be depriving people of their liberty as a consequence of their nationality or country of origin. I feel particularly passionate about challenging the practice of detaining people indefinitely in prisons, where their access to legal advice and other support is even further restricted.”
Why do you think it is important that people support BID’s work?
“BID’s help is the only option for many people in immigration detention. Some of the clients taken on by the Prison Team have had no access to immigration advice, and have only found out about BID through a workshop we’ve held, or through word of mouth. We have come across several people who have been detained under immigration powers for a year or more, not knowing where to go, and without any family or friends to assist them on the outside. There is a huge access to justice issue for ‘Foreign National Offenders’ within the criminal justice system, and without BID’s help many people detained in prisons would slip through the cracks.”
Frank volunteered at BID for 6 months answering calls to our advice line and then working in our Right to Liberty project which works with particularly vulnerable clients in detention. He added:
“BID was my first experience of the legal sector and I’ve loved literally every second of it. It has been a crazy learning curve. I have been challenged consistently (which is great!) and it wouldn’t have been possible to have a nicer group of staff and volunteers. All the legal managers go above and beyond to teach you and you really learn by doing which is the best part about volunteering at BID.”
We would like to say a huge thank you to Frank and Isabel for all their hard work. We work with over 4,000 people per year and simply could not do it without the support of our incredible voluntary team of casework volunteers and pro bono barristers.