36 NGOs urge The Joint Committee on Human Rights to reopen the case on detention

36 NGOs urge The Joint Committee on Human Rights to reopen the case on detention – 14 April 2011

36 NGOs are now urging The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) to scrutinise the use of administrative detention as a part of the asylum system in the UK. In their letter to the Chair of the JCHR, Dr Hywel Francis, the signatories expressed their concern that many of the problems highlighted by its 2007 report, The Treatment of Asylum Seekers, remain unaddressed.

Of the 63 recommendations that were made by the report, 40% (24) concerned the detention and removal of asylum seekers. The NGOs state in their letter that the issues identified by the report are continuing if not deteriorating.  The letter ends by saying “We believe that revisiting the recommendations of the 2007 report would be an efficient and effective means of bringing these issues into focus again without the Committee needing to launch a new full-scale inquiry. At present, the Asylum Improvement Project entirely misses the opportunity to confront the deep flaws in the detention system”.

The idea for jointly lobbying the JCHR was mooted at the Detention Forum quarterly meeting in February 2011. Campaign to Close Campsfield and Detention Action (formerly London Detainee Support Group) volunteered to draft the letter, and several other groups volunteered to speak to their contacts to collect more signatures. The Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture, who had already met the JCHR on the same issue, also assisted with drafting. 

The signatories include small groups that visit immigration detainees, large national refugee charities, other NGOs concerned about the treatment of migrants as well as faith groups. 

Liz Peretz, of the Detention Forum Co-ordination Group, and Barbed Wire Britain, said; ‘It will be a significant step for the Joint Committee on Human Rights to renew their pressure on the government to act on their 2007 report.  Its recommendations came from a very thorough review, which many of us on the Forum contributed to.  It was worrying when the report seemed to vanish so soon after its publication – and it is a great pleasure to be one of the signatories of this joint letter’.

Geoffrey Duncan of Churches Refugee Network, who also sits on the Co-ordination Group said; ‘The Detention Forum is able to bring expertise and skills to the important and continuing debate on detention. We are a valuable group of people from diverse NGO backgrounds. The letter will show how we work together and will encourage the Joint Committee on Human Rights to re-engage with government and bring pressure for action on the 2007 report’.

The Detention Forum quarterly meetings are a space where strategies for questioning the use of immigration detention are discussed by those organisations who wish to take part.  They can use the meetings to develop and suggest specific collaborative actions, and other can opt to join in.  The next quarterly meeting will take place on 27th May 2011.  For further information, please contact Eiri Ohtani at asylumrights(at)gmail.com. 

The full list of the signatories are as below:

Gina Clayton, ASSIST (Sheffield)

Maurice Wren, Director, Asylum Aid

Richard Taylor, Asylum Welcome (Oxford)

Ali McGinley, Director, Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees

Revd Dr Rosemary Kidd, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church’s Joint Public Issues Team

Liz Peretz, Barbed Wire Britain

Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project

Teresa Elwes, The Bromley Trust

Sarah Hayward, Campaign Against Bullingdon Immigration Removal Centre

Geoffrey Duncan, Churches Refugee Network

Bill MacKeith, Campaign to Close Campsfield

Vebi Kosumi, Director, Dover Detainee Visitors Group

Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director, The Equal Rights Trust

Nic Eadie, Director, Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group

Anne Dickinson, Coordinator, Haslar Visitors Group

Kate Adams, Kent Refugee Help

Tony Goff, Liverpool Prisons Visiting Group

Jerome Phelps, Director, London Detainee Support Group

Keith Best, Chief Executive, Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture

National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

Patsy Brand, Chair of Trustees of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum

Abigail Stepnitz, Poppy Project National Coordinator, Eaves Housing for Women

Vaughan Jones, Chief Executive, Praxis

Donna Covey, Chief Executive, Refugee Council

Rita Chadha-Bolt, Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London

Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Simone Abel, Director, René Cassin

Anna Beesley, Coordinator, Scottish Detainee Visitors

John Wilkes, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council

Anne Leeming, Chair, Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group

Emma Williams, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees

The Unity Centre Glasgow

Heather Jones, Yarl’s Wood Befrienders

Sarah Harland, Coordinator, Zimbabwe Association