My name is Allan. I am a father, a carer for social services, and a refugee, and in 2014 I was detained at Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre. I am one of the thousands of people who were detained at Campsfield House in Kidlington, Oxfordshire between 1993 and 2018.
I claimed asylum in the UK after escaping persecution and imprisonment in Uganda. I moved to Oxford where I became a healthcare worker at the local hospital. I worked so I could support my family who were also seeking asylum. While working at the hospital, I was found and arrested by the Home Office as my immigration status did not allow me to work and I was subsequently detained at Campsfield.
I was imprisoned in Campsfield for 9 months, though I did not know how long I would be held. One of the hardest parts of detention is the uncertainty of not knowing how long you will be there. While you are there you are not treated like a human. Conditions at Campsfield were at times inhumane, with people resorting to hunger strikes, self-harm, and tragically even suicide.
You are given a number and referred to by that number rather than your name. When you meet people from outside the centre, you are perceived and treated as if you are a risk to society – a dangerous criminal – when all you are trying to do is reach safety and build a life.
While I was at Campsfield I saw many people struggle to cope with depression and a system designed to break people down. My way of coping was to join a legal reading group, where we taught ourselves immigration law and supported each other to appeal against our detention. I was eventually released from Campsfield in February 2015 when my legal battle was successful.
I was granted refugee status later that year and I have since returned to being a carer in the community. My daughter is now at university here.
In June 2022, the Home Office announced plans to reopen Campsfield as an Immigration Removal Centre. The centre would hold around 400 men and is set to open in late 2023.
Immigration detention has immediate and long-term negative consequences for people’s medical and mental health, yet vulnerable people – including traumatised survivors of torture, human trafficking and modern slavery, as well as LGBTQI+ asylum seekers – are routinely held in detention.
After multiple reports of abuse and mistreatment at existing removal sites, this government has stopped commissioning annual independent reviews of the treatment of vulnerable adults in immigration detention.
A recent report by the charity Medical Justice concluded that Home Office safeguarding processes are ‘so ineffective they are basically fictional’.
Reopening Campsfield would place refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in danger, misery and fear.
Anyone deemed ‘subject to immigration control’ is at risk of detention. As immigration detention is an administrative – rather than criminal – process, individuals can be detained without trial, without warning, without proper judicial oversight and with little chance of bail.
Detention is designed to be used prior to removal, yet 86% of people leaving detention in 2021 were released on bail, and most made successful claims to asylum or other forms of humanitarian protection, rendering their detention wholly unnecessary.
The UK remains the only country in Europe without a statutory time limit on immigration detention.
The government is planning on spending £227 million on re-opening Campsfield House IRC. This money would be better spent reducing the asylum processing backlog of over 160,000 cases and helping refugees rebuild their lives in the UK.
The current system is incredibly expensive, remarkably inefficient and, above all, profoundly unjust. Community-based alternatives exist and are viable.
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