Last week migrant and refugee rights campaigners, union activists, local politicians and other community members came together in Liverpool to launch the Merseyside These Walls Must Fall campaign against immigration detention.
At a packed launch event hosted by the local support organisation MRANG, Liverpool Trades Council, the Merseyside Pensioners Association, and members of migrant support groups LARA and MAMA, over eighty people heard from experts-by-experience and other campaigners, and proposed some great ideas for action to take forward to challenge detention locally.
Appropriately, the launch was held in the Eleanor Rathbone Hall at Blackburne House. As an MP, Eleanor Rathbone was one of the strongest campaigners against the internment of ‘enemy aliens’ during World War Two – so was herself an anti-detention campaigner!
The These Walls Must Fall campaign highlights that any Merseyside resident without a British passport is at risk of being detained. People are being taken from their communities to far-away detention centres, with no idea of when they might be released. As local campaigner Agatha commented:
‘You could wake up tomorrow, walking down the street and boosh – you could be detained’.
The UK is the only country in Europe without a time limit on immigration detention.
Ed from the Freed Voices group highlighted the human cost of being locked up indefinitely in prison-like conditions:
‘The experience of detention is the worst thing in my 46 years. I don’t wish that on anyone’
A speaker from MRANG spoke courageously about how the experience of detention left her suicidal:
‘I was detained for one month. You might not think thats a long time, but every day felt like one year.’
Other local campaigners highlighted that being locked up with no time limit not only wrecks people’s lives, it is also a huge waste of taxpayer’s money, to the tune of around £33,000 per person per year – and often serves no purpose.
‘Detention is pointless. The UK government detains 30,000 a year. It spends a lot of money on one person in detention .. and more than 50% of those people are released into society’, meaning their detention served no purpose.
Martin from UCU spoke passionately about the need for solidarity and struggle:
‘The UCU had a 14 day national strike, we had a demonstration and we invited These Walls Must Fall. This is the best way to come together. On the streets, in struggle, fighting for rights, fighting for justice’
Marie from the Merseyside Pensioners Association pointed out that Merseyside has a long and proud history of migration, with her own family arriving as immigrants from Ireland. She highlighted how important it is to stand together across generations, cultures and nationalities, and expressed full support for the campaign.
Lauren from Right to Remain highlighted that today there is the opportunity for real change in the immigration detention system in a way that would have been inconceivable five years ago. Detention is firmly on the political agenda, in large part due to the courageous campaigning of migrant campaigners such as the Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers. By coming together as activists, unions, community members and sector organisations, we can build power and create the environment needed for politicians to make the right decisions and change policy.
A young campaigner gave an update from These Walls Must Falls in Greater Manchester, and expressed support for the campaign in Merseyside.
‘Hopefully together, we can bring those walls down!’
After some passionate and informed speeches, attendees broke into tables to plan and discuss what they – as individuals and as members of groups –will do to locally challenge detention.
Among the great plans for action were:
• Passing union motions and getting support of constituency political parties
• Raising awareness in the community, including churches and schools, and having stalls at local events
• Demonstrations and rallies
• Getting support of local councils and MPs
• Using social media to spread the word
• Linking the campaign against detention with other issues such as homelessness
If you would like to make some of these ideas happen, or have other plans for challenging detention locally, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
And coming up this month, MRANG would like to invite people to the following detention-themed actions:
Friday 15th June, 12-2pm (WOMEN ONLY). Creative session to make campaign-themed artwork for Refugee Week.
MRANG drop-in, All Saints Church, 55 Sheil Rd, Liverpool, L6 3AD
Wednesday 20th June, 6pm. MRANG Refugee Week event – with a These Walls Must Fall flavour. The Blackie, 1 Great George St, Liverpool, L1 5EW
For any queries about these events, please contact Hattie from MRANG: email@example.com