By Jade Weiner, 2020 fellow
The topic of discussion for this session was immigration detention, with Sam Grant, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Liberty.
The UK is the only country in Europe without a maximum time limit on immigration/asylum detention. Approximately 25,000 people per year go through the immigration detention system. Liberty, a civil liberties organisation, has opposed the UK’s discriminatory immigration regime since 1974. Sam’s presentation showcased Liberty’s campaigns that educate people about immigration detention issues and lobby for regulatory reform including for a 28-day time limit on detention.
Detention not only harms the person detained but also their families and loved ones from whom they are separated. Beyond the physical and psychological ramifications of detention, the uncertainty of when a case will be considered and decided makes this indefinite detention even more unconscionable.
A further presentation by Varda, a fellow in the programme, highlighted how an indefinite detention regime is a flagrant disregard for human rights and globally acceptable legal principles. Social justice demands as well as efficient economic concerns (detention in its current form is costing in excess of £100m per year) require that alternatives be investigated. Pilot projects which include permitting the seeker to continue to reside in their home while their application is pending, are currently being considered. Reforms have been slow but progress is promising with the number of detention institutions, as well as people being detained, both decreasing.
Matters of asylum and immigration are central to Judaism. Throughout ancient and modern times, the Jewish nation has been exiled, banished and expelled, not only from their original homeland but from so many other lands that we have endeavoured to build and call home. Having been strangers in foreign lands, we can empathise with those in need of refuge. Through developing community-based alternatives to detention and promoting awareness, we can fulfil our Torah obligation to “love the strangers among us and to avoid causing them harm.”