Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Outlaw detention globally

Editorial: Outlaw detention globally


 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Outlaw detention globally

With news of horrific conditions in detention centres at the US-Mexico border filling our newsfeeds daily, it’s time to say once again: immigration detention must be outlawed, globally.

We must work towards a world where no one is detained for immigration purposes. We must begin to view the detention of migrants – often simply because they are migrants – as a violation of human rights and an outrage akin to torture.

We call on the new UK government and the new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, to make this a priority.

While the images of migrants imprisoned at the US-Mexico border are desperately shocking – as are the stories of detention in places such as Libya, Manus Island and Nauru – we in Europe cannot claim any kind of moral high ground. Nearly one third of the world’s detention centres are in Europe, and several European countries are actively engaged in expanding detention capacity. Indeed, most detention centres are clustered in countries whose own citizens bear some of the most powerful passports while the foreigners crossing their borders are treated with hostility and suspicion.

Undocumented migrants in the UK, for example, live in daily fear of being detained – just this week, we and Detention Forum are running an advice session for some of the international students whose visas were wrongly revoked in 2014 on what to do if you get detained. Sadly, many already have first-hand experience.

But how many of the world’s 1,255 detention centres go under the radar? How often do we scrutinise immigration detention in Russia, for example, where conditions in detention centres routinely violate state and international legislation?

Immigration detention essentially means imprisoning people without trial, without even a criminal charge. Sometimes these people are children, often they are imprisoned indefinitely. By allowing this to continue, we are bowing to the worst impulses in human nature. And by expanding our detention systems around the world, we are denying decades of (albeit slow) progress towards a more open, inclusive world.

It should shame us that children are being kept in cages. It should shame us that migrants in the UK can be jailed indefinitely. It should shame us that migrants in detention around the world are taking their own lives. But shame is not enough – nor even is outrage. There must be action.

Immigration detention is quite simply incompatible with civilised society. And there are plenty of well-researched alternatives – including legal migration routes, temporary statuses and case management in the community. So we must make a choice – do we wish to be civilised, or do we wish to continue caging and confining human beings for the crime of being foreign?


TOP IMAGE: Drawings by children currently locked up in the Manus Island detention centre, Greens MPs, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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