Thursday, 3 April 2008

Immigration and Detention

This piece takes a look at the growing increase of the use of detention of immigrants and asylum seekers discussed in an article by Mary Bosworth titled ‘Immigration Detention’ in the Spring 2008 issue of Criminal Justice Matters.

As Bosworth notes, especially after 9/11, increasingly mandatory uses of detention are being made in the case of immigrants. Not only is this being used on all sorts of foreigners – from those who have overstayed their visas, to asylum seekers, to those who have completed a prison sentence.

As Bosworth points out, Britain leads the way in confining the greatest number of asylum seekers for the longest period of time. And of these immigrants which are held (this isn’t just including asylum seekers), 85 per cent are held in Immigration Removal Centre (of which 7 are contracted out to private security firms, whereas 3 are run by the prison service), 13 per cent are confined in prison and the remaining 2 per cent are in short-term holding facilities (whatever they are?).

However, immigrants detained as these are under the Immigration Acts are not being detained as criminals – yet as we have seen they are being held in the same or very similar institutions as those convicted of criminal offences. As Bosworth points out though, they are being held in places which were (or still are) penal establishments, being looked after by prison trained staff and being administered by former criminal justice system administrators.

Parallel to the crackdown on civil liberties is a crackdown on the rights of non-citizens of a country. But like terrorist legislation, it may find it’s way to affect the rest of the population – Bosworth reports that in Australia citizens of that country had been falsely deported.

So how, do I conclude such a piece as this? I think that for one thing, these actions can only fuel nationalistic and racist tensions in a country. Secondly, that this is to some extents making mountains out of molehills – what benefit is there to punishing immigrants and asylum seekers for being just that? Rather, as ever, we need to remove the social conditions that have led them to become these labels.

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