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People are being taken from our communities and locked up in prison-like detention centres, without time limit, with no idea of when they might be released. Why? They just don’t have the correct immigration papers. This is unacceptable. This has to end.

Immigration detention is a wholly unnecessary, unjustifiable practice, one of the most harmful aspects of the UK’s “hostile environment” for migrants and a shameful civil rights abuse that cannot be ignored. Find out more about the campaign to end immigration detention in our new blog by Agatha Sibande, campaigner for These Walls Must Fall. 

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Seeing the story of victim of child trafficking who was illegal detained for months makes me more certain that immigration detention must end.

I was shocked to read the recent story of Abdul, a victim of child trafficking who was held illegally in immigration detention for several months despite having refugee status and showing clear signs of having been tortured and abused. Unfortunately, many others have shared his fate. The Home Office has admitted to illegally detaining hundreds of people that under their own rules they shouldn’t have. They’ve paid out over £21 million in compensation in recent years. We know that staff have been paid bonuses for how many people they detained. There are Home Office rules about not regularly detaining people who are ‘at risk’ – including victims of torture, and victims of trafficking – yet even when this evidence is presented to the Home Office, they are breaching their own guidelines by keeping people locked up. But what about people like myself, who can be ‘legally’ detained?

For the past year I have been campaigning in Liverpool with These Walls Must Fall, a grassroots campaign to challenge immigration detention. I am an asylum seeker going through appeal. I’ve been in the asylum process for two years now.

I campaign against immigration detention because several of my friends have faced detention, and it’s something that I fear could happen to me.

A lot of my friends have been in detention for different amounts of time – from two months, to seven months, to eleven months, to over two years. You don’t know how long you’re going to be there, because there is no time limit on detention in the UK – we are the only country in Europe to detain people indefinitely. Your life is in a cage, and you live like you’re in prison. But it’s worse than a prison because you don’t know what you’re in there for – you’re just waiting to see if you’re going to be deported, or released back into the community.

these walls must fall fighting immigration detention hostile environment liverpool uk home office britain migrants migration refugees asylum seekers

Whether you come to England as a nurse, as a student, as a doctor, as a teacher – as long as you’re an immigrant, you are liable to detention. Your life is dependent on a computer or a Home Office official, and you’re living each day waiting to see what will happen to you tomorrow, with no future plans, with no goals. Everything seems to die, when I think of detention.

Every month I have to go and sign at the Home Office, as do ten of thousands of others who are waiting the outcome of their asylum or immigration claim. And because I’ve been refused and am on an appeal, I get panic attacks, anxiety, every month when I go and report. Because at each visit, I could be detained. I always have to take a friend of mine, and I always have to have a spare key given to someone, just in case I get detained. It is a fear because I have never been in prison in my life. I’ve tried to be a good citizen, or a good resident, everywhere I’ve been. To follow the law, to abide by all rules. And it really freaks me out to know that I could be going to sign today or tomorrow, and that could be it, I’d be going to detention, like I’ve done something wrong. I fled my country because I was scared of being put into jail. And the thought that I am here and am liable to be put in a cell as good as jail – or even worse than jail – it scares me.

I feel for those that I know are taken on a daily basis. I feel for the families that are torn apart, because not only does it affect me or the person being detained, it affects the family. As a human, knowing that you’ve got a son, or a daughter, or a sister, or a cousin, or a father, uncle, aunt – someone close to you, someone that you love – and that person is taken away from you, and put into detention, just because the system says – it hurts. It really hurts so bad.

I feel that it is unnecessary for people to be detaining humans, detaining families, detaining a person that’s just like you.

There’s no difference: we’ve got minds, we’ve got goals, we’ve got ambitions, we want to live a life, we want to be free, we want to succeed, we want to be successful, we want to be rich, we want to be educated, we want everything that you want. But why I am the one that is supposed to suffer whereas you are the one with the key?  Immigration detention should end now.

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Agatha Sibanda is 27 years old and is originally from Zimbabwe but currently residing in Toxteth, Liverpool.  She’s a campaigner with These Walls Must Fall.
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These Walls Must Fall is a growing network of groups, organisations, communities, people. People from all sorts of backgrounds but with one thing in common: a determination to end the injustice of immigration detention. Join the campaign today!