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

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

Billboards in London and Manchester appear with poignant message from people with lived experience of immigration detention

Each year, around 24,000 people are detained in immigration centres across the UK. Immigration detention is often kept out of sight and therefore out of the public’s mind, meaning that most people are unaware of what is happening behind those barbed wires and closed gates.

Ben and Jerry’s is working with Detention Action and Allies for Justice to give a platform to people who’ve been detained. As part of their wider campaign to end inhumane detention, they asked a small number of people with lived experience of detention - including some still held inside immigration centres - what one thing they would say to the public if they could.

These quotes have been plastered across billboards 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 asked shared the impact of being torn away from their families. One person, who had been held for more than 1,280 days (over three and a half years), said: “I’ve been in England for 36 years. I have children and a family. Detention took everything from me.” Another, who was held for 456 days, said: “Detention ruined my mental health, I was taken 200 miles away from my family.”

For many, immigration detention is a traumatic experience. These centres are meant to be used sparingly and for the shortest time possible while a person’s immigration status is being processed. However, the reality is that immigration detention is used far beyond this intended purpose and there is currently no limit on the length of time a person can be held in these centres. This means that people are held indefinitely, in prison-like conditions, with no idea when they will be released back to their families and communities.

Many of the people who have experienced detention wanted everyone to know the devastating impact that being held indefinitely can have on a person’s life. One person said: “I left detention feeling empty of life. It’s designed to make you feel less than a human.”

The indefinite nature of immigration detention is proven to be detrimental to a person’s mental health. Around 70% of people detained are released back to their communities but, by this point, irreparable damage has already been done.

Tragically, the Guardian reported in 2018 that there are two suicide attempts every day in detention centres. And, in a recent review, it was found that symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD last well beyond the detention period.

Some of the people held in immigration detention are vulnerable before their detention or victims of previous trauma, like one contributor who was held for more than 700 days: “I’m a victim of modern slavery. Being held in detention is distressing and harms my recovery”.

Of the people interviewed, one urged the public to take action, stating: “Detention is causing immense harm to thousands of people. Please ask the government to end this.”

The billboards were on display at key sites around London and Manchester, including on the biggest digital billboard in the UK, on the 26th October.

End Inhumane Detention. Learn more and take action:

Featured Image Credit: The LADbible Team