04:53 GMT +314 October 2019
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    Detention Centre, Morton Hall

    Black Hole at the Heart of British Justice

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    A coalition of campaign groups, civil society organisations and religious leaders is stepping up its demands that the maximum length of immigration detentions in the UK be capped. Britain is the only country in Europe to allow the indefinite detention of migrants.

    "I was looking for sanctuary, yet I found only sorrow. Rather than being treated with dignity, people in Yarl's Wood were treated like animals".

    Jane* Namugambe was forced to flee Uganda because of the oppression and she faced and the torture she endured.

    "I came to Britain because I knew it was a country with a proud tradition of providing sanctuary and a global reputation for protecting the vulnerable. My experience was very different from what I expected. I came seeking freedom, yet I was locked up for over a month in Yarl's Wood detention centre".

    Home Office figures reveal that 30,000 migrants are detained indefinitely in what's been described at the ‘black hole at the heart of British justice'. Many detainees have never even been convicted of a crime. James Asfa, Community Organiser for Citizens UK, believes it's a basic injustice being held in prison-like conditions without judicial oversight.

    "On the whim of a civil servant you can be indefinitely detained. It's a basic injustice and contrary to traditional British justice".

    Britain is the only country in Europe to allow the indefinite detention of migrants, which is why Citizens UK is launching its second campaign to end indefinite detention of migrants in Britain.  

    An independent report by Matrix Chambers suggested the cost of indefinitely detaining migrants stood at £75million a year.

    "We know people whose parents or spouses are detained. The most troubling thing is, we don't know when they'll be released. It could be a month or three years without even committing a crime", says James Asfa.

    "If everyone knew that 30,000 people are innocently detained in Britain then they would be outraged. There are votes in ending indefinite detention. We are helping to organise communities affected by indefinite detention and equip them with negotiation skills in order to talk to their MP. We've done it before — Citizen UK changed the law on child detention after the 2010 general election; there were local votes in that issue.

    Yarl's Wood is a privately run immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire. In 2014, The Observer disclosed a series of allegations of sexual misconduct, involving male staff and female detainees. An internal report also revealed that the outsourcing firm Serco failed to properly investigate sexual assault claims by one of its health workers against a woman detained in Yarl's Wood.

    "I had committed no crime, yet I was put in a cell in what was essentially a prison. They gave us uniforms like you expect prisoners to wear and every night I could hear the keys rattle as the guards walked the corridors", says Jane Namugambe

    Citizen UK is working all across the country in the run up to the general election in order to convince parliamentary candidates to commit in principle to a time limit on detention.

    From Detention to Refugee

    Kuka Ivo, sought asylum in Britain from Cameroon in 2012 after being tortured and sexually assaulted for membership of the Southern Cameroons National Council.

    "The day I went to the UK immigration office in Croydon was the day I lost my rights just for seeking asylum. For asking for protection in the UK, you lose your human rights".

    Kuka was kept in a cell in Croydon before being taken to Harmondsworth detention centre where he spent the next four months of his life.

    "From there I was taken to another prison, the Immigration Removal Centre near Portsmouth, it was from here that I was finally released". It took six months for Kuka to officially receive refugee status.

    At the end of 2013, there were 126,055 refugees, 23,070 pending asylum cases and 205 people were stateless. Information from the Home Office reveals that the majority of asylum seekers in Britain are from Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka; followed by Syria, Eritrea, Albania, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.

    *Not her real name

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