JRS UK & Asylum Welcome talk about the impacts of immigration detention at the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy


JRS UK & Asylum Welcome talk about the impacts of immigration detention at the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy

Detention is not the answer: JRS UK have signed the campaign to Keep Campsfield Closed.

13 February 2023

JRS UK & Asylum Welcome talk about the impacts of immigration detention at the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy

 JRS’ Sophie Cartwright, Senior Policy Officer, and Victoria Firth, Community Engagement Officer, joined Hari Reed of Asylum Welcome to talk at the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy about the use of immigration detention in the UK and a campaign against the reopening of Campsfield IRC in Oxfordshire.  

Students, Chaplaincy staff, Oxford residents and university academics participated in a discussion covering the growing use of immigration detention in the asylum system, conditions within immigration removal centres and their impact on health and well-being, and the wider political context for renewed interest in Campsfield.   

What is immigration detention?

Immigration detention is the holding of people in prison-like conditions, ostensibly for the purpose of immigration control, such as facilitating removal from the UK.  Immigration detention In the UK, is indefinite and the decision to detain does not go before a judge.  

Our detention outreach work at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centres at Heathrow has demonstrated time and time again the lasting and damaging impact of detention on mental and physical health, and on one’s sense of self, even beyond the time held in detention.  

Knowing the harmful and long-lasting impacts of detention, we stand wholeheartedly with The Coalition to Keep Campsfield Closed.  

Immigration detention is antithetical to the dignity of the human person and is ineffective as an administrative procedure, and must be opposed. In short, as the coalition says: “immigration detention is not the answer.” 

How much time do we have to stop Campsfield reopening?

Campsfield House, six miles north of Oxford, was originally used as a youth detention centre but was converted into an Immigration Detention Centre in 1993. It was open for 25 years, closing in 2018 amidst a general decline in the use of detention.  

In June 2022, the Home Office announced its intention to reopen Campsfield House, with an aim to reopen at the end of 2023.  

It was a lively discussion, one that really spoke to the necessity of talking and sharing experiences. Those attending had a range of knowledge of immigration detention – some had never heard of it, whilst others had participated in monitoring boards, some have had experiences of hosting or supporting refugee friends who have been in and out of detention. A key topic of conversation was the worsening of conditions in immigration detention over the years, and people showed great concern about how welfare and wellbeing would be tended to.

What can we do to campaign agaisnt the reopening of Campsfield? How can I learn more about immigration detention?

JRS UK have signed the Change.org petition to Keep Campsfield Closed. If you’re in the Oxford area and are able to give more time to the campaign, you can get further involved in a number of ways, including by joining their mailing list, writing letters to your MP, or joining their next meeting. 

You can read more about what immigration detention is, as well as its impact, in our 2020 report Detained and Dehumanised, which is a piece of work based off 24 interviews with people with lived experiences of detention. We also have a monthly “Praying with Detainees” newsletter, with reflections from people currently/previously held in detention, volunteers, and staff, and share news about developments in the use of detention on our website.  

If you’re in London and are interested in volunteering with us, please do get in touch. We are always in need of social visitors who accompany people held in detention and provide some much needed friendship.  

Other organisations, such as AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees) and BID (Bail for Immigration Detainees) are worth looking into and share research and commentaries too.  

Events like this one – raising awareness and sharing opportunities to get involved – are so important today amidst growing government hostility and planned increases to the detention estate.  

We’d like to thank Hari Reed for her input, and Fr Matthew, Alvea and Fr William for their help setting up the talk and inviting guests to attend.  

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Jesuit Refugee Service UK
The Hurtado Jesuit Centre
2 Chandler Street, London E1W 2QT

020 7488 7310

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