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JRS UK report finds dehumanising effects of immigration detention cause life-long pain and trauma


Report calls on government to end detention for the purpose of immigration control

Date of Publication:
19 July 2020

JRS UK report finds dehumanising effects of immigration detention cause life-long pain and trauma

19 July 2020

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK last month released a comprehensive report examining the impact of immigration detention.

CoverYou can read the 40-page report here.

The report draws from the accounts of 27 forcibly displaced people supported by JRS UK, with direct experience of immigration detention spanning the last 20 years.

JRS UK explained: "This report recounts experiences and reflections of people affected by immigration detention in the UK over the last two decades. We had in depth conversations with people who had been detained, and additionally with others at risk of detention. What emerged is harrowing: detention has a deep and lasting impact on the person: on mental and physical health, on the way one interacts with the world, and on sense of self and of one's humanity. Its trauma stretches beyond the period of detention, to be re-lived indefinitely over the years to come. Torture survivors experience detention as torture. They and others speak of detention as a kind of dying, and indeed detention fosters a culture of death where suicidal ideation is commonplace. Even a short period in detention is traumatic; long detention appears to be especially so."

Writing in The Tablet earlier this month, Dr Sophie Cartwright, JRS UK Policy Officer and author of the report, said: " I was horrified listening to the stories of people who had come here to seek safety and been treated in this way … The UK's system of immigration detention is procedurally arbitrary and opaque. It is devoid of both love and justice. It tears apart communities. There is a vast body of evidence that it causes profound and indelible harm to human persons, to physical and mental health. And it serves no good purpose. We as a society have allowed ourselves to become persuaded that this is normal, inevitable. We have thus normalised cruelty and abject suffering."

JRS UK's report concludes that the use of immigration detention is incompatible with a humane and just immigration and asylum system, and it makes the following three recommendations:

  • End the use of detention for the purpose of immigration control;
  • Introduce a mandatory and short time limit for all those detained under immigration powers;
  • The decision to detain must go before a judge.

Sophie Carwright said: "Immigration detention is not a necessity, it is a political choice. In the voices of those who share their stories in the report, we see that it is a choice that does not see human dignity, human welfare, or even human life, as a priority. This has to end."

Sarah Teather, director of JRS UK, said immigration detention is a "harmful process that destroys families, communities and lives", and she called on the Government to end "this cruel and inhumane practice".

Following the release of the report, a Home Office spokesperson told The Tablet: "Those in immigration detention are often dangerous foreign criminals, or people who are here unlawfully and they are only detained when there is a realistic prospect of their removal within a reasonable timescale.

"A detention time limit would lead to more dangerous foreign criminals on our streets putting the public at risk, and encourage people to frustrate removal by running down the clock until release is guaranteed."