Last Thursday human rights campaigners, union members, migrant rights groups, political representatives and other members of the public met in Manchester to campaign against immigration detention.
Gathering at Manchester’s historic Mechanics Institute, at a campaign launch meeting organised with Uniet the Union Greater Manchester Social Action Branch, over 120 people heard from experts, asked questions, made contacts, and proposed some really great and imaginative solutions to a policy which damages and divides local communities.
Setting up for the big event at the historic Mechanics Institute.— Right to Remain (@Right_to_Remain) November 2, 2017
Follow us, @wallsmustfall and #TheseWallsMustFall for updates! pic.twitter.com/EAcln0LgrG
The These Walls Must Fall campaign aims to highlight that residents of Greater Manchester are being taken from local communities, locked up in far-off detention centres with no time limit, no idea of when they might be released.
It's going to a full house tonight! People are saying loudly #TheseWallsMustFall #NoOneIsIllegal pic.twitter.com/j9xFiwngoh— Right to Remain (@Right_to_Remain) November 2, 2017
The UK is the only country in Europe to operate a policy of indefinite detention for migrants, simply because they don’t yet have the correct immigration papers. Around 30,000 people pass through the government’s detention estate of 14 centres each year, with around 3,000 people detained at any one time. The closest centre to Manchester is Morton Hall, in Lincoln – four hours away on public transport. (You can find out more about all of the UK’s detention centres through the Unlocking Detention tour). Yet against these steep odds, the challenges and victories that have come to resist the hostile immigration system, have often come from local communities. Those in attendance then had the opportunity to have their questions about detention answered by Michael from Freed Voices – an experts-by-experience group that between them have lost 20 years to immigration detention. As well as answering questions like ‘how long you can be detained?’ (indefinitely!), Michael neatly illustrated how detention is not (just) an immigration issue, but a civil one – it effects us all, by taking people from our communities, and wasting money that could be spent on other social goods.
Michael from @Right_to_Remain welcomes everyone to this #TheseWallsMustFall event pic.twitter.com/K06hw0b433— Right to Remain (@Right_to_Remain) November 2, 2017
Julie Ward, MEP for the North West England region, won her seat in the European parliament by defeating the fascist BNP leader Nick Griffith in 2014 – and since then has tirelessly championed human rights issues.
‘How can we shut down detention?’ IronMike from #FreedVoices: ‘Where you see injustice, speak out, push your MP, fight.’ #TheseWallsMustFall— Detention Action (@DetentionAction) November 2, 2017
She spoke passionately about the need to resist the government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ – which is seeing homes, banks, schools and hospitals all turn into border posts. Julie noted:
Brilliant speech from @julie4nw about ending the cruelty of the use of detention centres in the UK pic.twitter.com/3pOJrKbSb9— These Walls Must Fall (@wallsmustfall) November 2, 2017
“If we look back at our family history, somewhere along the line we would discover we had been people who needed to be somewhere else; we needed to flee, we needed to move.”(You can watch a short clip of Julie’s speech here) Mariam Yusuf, campaigner with These Walls Must Fall and Women Asylum Seekers Together, spoke of the hardship that detention has caused for the women she organises with; and that women she knows are being ‘broken’ by the system. The recurring nature of detention she described is reflected nationally – the majority of people who are detained are then released, their detention having served no purpose.
Armed with knowledge and fired up by the speeches, attendees broke into tables to plan and discuss what they – as individuals and as members of groups – can do to locally challenge detention. Among the great suggestions were:
Good to hear Mariam Yusuf @WASTCampaigning #expertbyexperience sharing how #immigrationdetention affects people #migrantvoices #unlocked17 pic.twitter.com/rPrPeaPx8M— Migrant Voice (@MigrantVoiceUK) November 2, 2017
- working with local MPs and councillors
- putting pressure on Tories as the last major party to yet have committed to a 28 day time limit for detention
- Getting motions passed in trade unions, councils,
- Writing letters to local papers
- Speak with people in our local communities about detention
- Get famous people to speak out against detention
- Creative actions, like building a wall through Manchester city centre!
It’s clear there will be lots of actions coming up in Manchester and around the country; one happening now is getting your MP to attend next week’s parliamentary meeting on detention. All details here, and you can find your MP here.
Gonna come clean: we ❤️ #TheseWallsMustFall. Such an amazing spread of activists, experts-by-experience & Manchester residents in the room. pic.twitter.com/mZ0QYVUtJ8— Detention Action (@DetentionAction) November 2, 2017