Families separated for immigration purposes
13 June 2016
Last year 32,446 people subject to immigration control in the UK were detained by the government. Some had entered the country irregularly and were quickly removed. Others were detained pending removal or deportation. More than half of them were released back into the community, meaning that their detention had served no purpose.
But what many people don’t know is that many of those detained were ordinary people, many of whom had lived in the UK for decades and, until they were detained had been quietly going about their everyday lives with their partners and children. Some have never known any other home, and have husbands and wives, sons and daughters, jobs, homes, lives right here in Britain. Decisions to detain pay no heed to the impact of such a decision on the wider family. Parents are removed without warning from the heart of the family.
Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) recently helped a man called John. John fled his home in a war-torn African country and used a false passport to get into the UK (the only way he could escape), where he claimed asylum. He has now lived in the UK for 10 years – he met and fell in love with a British woman, with whom he has two British children.
John’s asylum application was refused, and the government detained him. They can’t deport him – he doesn’t have a passport, and the country he is from will not give him one. But still he was locked away – with no charge, and no sentence. Taken from his family home. His two young children left struggling to make sense of life without their father.
John had no money to get legal representation, and couldn’t get legal aid. He got in touch with BID’s Separated Families team, who were able to help him apply for bail, and eventually reunite him with his young family.
John’s story is fairly typical of the people that BID encounters. Many of the people detained by the government moved to the UK when they were children and have no connections in the country of their birth. Many of them have families in the UK – British partners and British children.
Immigration detention is the only form of detention in the UK without limits. The government doesn’t have to get a judge’s permission to detain someone. There is no time limit on detention. People can be detained for six months, a year, two years or even longer. Detention is used as an administrative tool by the government – a convenience without proper consideration of less harmful alternatives, and certainly without consideration of the impact that detention will have on a person’s mental health or their family.
Last year, BID’s Separated Families project reunited 110 families who had been torn apart by immigration detention. Those families represent just a handful of the hundreds – maybe thousands – of parents who have been detained away from their children. Many – probably most – of those parents will eventually be allowed to return to their communities, left alone, again, with their families to try and put behind them the horrors of detention. But now, unlike before, the threat of future hangs over them all like a cloud. As Bid was told by one client, “Detention has scarred me for ever. I will never fully recover from it.”
The Separated Families project, like all BID’s work, relies solely on donations. BID receives no government funding and doesn’t charge its clients, who, without BID, may never have any legal advice to help them challenge their detention. To help assist more people like John, BID has launched a crowd funding appeal on CrowdJustice. Dozens of parents each year depend on BID to help them get back to their families, and BID relies on donations to fund that work.
John Hopgood, Policy and Research Manager for Bail for Immigration Detainees
For more details on BID’s Separated Families Project or to donate to the appeal visit https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/bid/