Last night Liverpool City Council passed a cross-party motion against immigration detention and in support of the local ‘These Walls Must Fall’ campaign. In a sign of a growing, community-based resistance to immigration detention, councillors from all four parties (Labour, Green, Lib Dems, Liberals) proposed a motion that called on the government to end indefinite detention, and that the system was “inhumane” and “not fit for purpose”. Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, leader of Liverpool Lib Dems and one of the sponsors of the motion said:

“Any Country should be judged by the way it treats people within its borders. A civilised Country treats its citizens and visitors with personal respect and with respect for the human rights of all people. The UK shamefully fails to act in a civilised way when it detains people for unspecified periods who have broken no law here or elsewhere.”

As with other aspects of the government’s hostile immigration policies, recently immigration detention has been in the public eye like never before. Members of the Windrush generation were detained or threatened with detention, and last week the Red Cross released a major report calling for an overhaul of the UK’s immigration detention system. Conditions are such that detainees suffer mental health problems which has lead to suicide attempts. And while child detention has decreased significantly, it continues: 1,649 children, 600 of whom were under 11, were detained here since the government officially ended child detention in 2010. Tom Crone, leader of Liverpool Greens, said:

“Indefinite detention of immigrants in the UK is a stain on our county’s record of standing up for human rights and protecting the vulnerable. As a Green I want to see our country become more compassionate and welcoming to those fleeing persecution or war, or simply coming to contribute to our society by working for a better future. I wholeheartedly support the declaration of the These Walls Must Fall campaign, and am pleased that the motion has received cross-party support from Liverpool Council.”

The Council noted that the UK remains the only country in Europe with no time limits on immigration detention. Each year over 30,000 people enter detention centres in the UK. Chelsea Ningabire, an activist with the These Walls Must Fall campaign in Liverpool, said:

“I would like to thank the city council for supporting our campaign. Detention is affecting many people’s wellbeing, and I am campaigning with These Walls Must Fall because I saw friends who have been detained, how detention have affected them, and I live everyday in fear to be detained too. Nobody should have to suffer this way just because they come from another country.”

Hattie Ditton, Casework and Advocacy Coordinator at MRANG, a charity that supports refugee and asylum-seeking women in Liverpool, said

“MRANG supports the campaign because indefinite detention is futile and cruel. Imprisoning a vulnerable person inside an institution without knowledge of when she will be released is torturous and results in a rapid deterioration of their mental health. No one should be driven to contemplating suicide as a result of a so-called administrative process, yet this is the case for many women we work with.”

The campaign is most active in Manchester and Liverpool, and has the support of various local groups including migrant rights organizations, trade unions, trade councils, universities, pensioner groups, and religious groups. It is led mostly be people themselves at risk of detention. Among other work, they have been securing support from councils. Last November, Manchester City Council become the first local authority in Britain to pass a motion condemning immigration detention. It was followed this April by Cambridge and Brighton & Hove. Two weeks ago Islington became the first council in London to endorse These Walls Must Fall. Political representatives, particularly from the north-west region, have endorsed the campaign, including several councilors, MEPs, MPs, and the shadow immigration Minister Afzal Khan. Liverpool MP Dan Carden recently spoke against detention and in support of the campaign at the recent Liverpool Together Against Trump rally.