People with lived experience of immigration detention share urgent messages via UK notice boards


Every year, about 24,000 people are held in immigration centers across the UK. Immigration detention is often hidden and therefore out of the public eye, which means most people are unaware of what goes on behind those barbed wires and closed doors.

Ben and Jerry’s works with Detention Action and Allies for Justice to give people who have been detained a platform. As part of their broader campaign to end inhumane detention, they asked a small number of people with lived experience of detention – including some still being held in immigration centers – what they would say to the public if they could.

These quotes were plastered on notice boards in London and Manchester, giving people a platform to share a message about UK immigration detention to thousands of passers-by.

Some of the people we interviewed shared the impact of being torn from their families. One person, who had been detained for over 1,280 days (over three and a half years), said: “I have been in England for 36 years. I have children and a family. Detention took everything from me. Another, who was detained for 456 days, said: “The detention ruined my sanity, I was taken 200 miles away from my family.”

For many, immigration detention is a traumatic experience. These centers are intended to be used sparingly and for the shortest possible time while a person’s immigration status is being processed. However, the reality is that immigration detention is used far beyond its intended purpose and there is currently no limit to how long a person can be held in these centres. This means that people are held indefinitely, in prison-like conditions, without knowing when they will be released back to their families and communities.

Many people who have been detained wanted everyone to know the devastating impact indefinite detention can have on a person’s life. One person said, “I left the detention feeling empty of life. It’s designed to make you feel less than human.

The indefinite nature of immigration detention has proven to be detrimental to a person’s mental health. About 70% detainees are released back into their communities but, by this stage, irreparable damage has already been done.

Tragically, the Guardian reported in 2018 that there were two suicide attempts a day in detention centres. And, in a recent examsymptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD have been found to last well beyond the detention period.

Some of those detained for migrants are vulnerable before their detention or victims of previous traumas, such as a contributor who was detained for more than 700 days: “I am a victim of modern slavery. Being detained is distressing and hinders my recovery.”

Among those interviewed, one urged the public to take action, saying: “Detention is causing immense harm to thousands of people. Please ask the government to put an end to this.

The billboards were displayed at key sites around London and Manchester, including on the UK’s largest digital billboard on October 26.

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