These walls must fall - councillors

December 19 2018

BRISTOL is adding its voice to calls for an end to immigration detention.

Councillors have backed the  These Walls Must Fall campaign by calling on the Mayor Marvin Rees to  lobby the government and work with MPs and other councils to push for a change in the law.

Immigration detention hit the headlines in Bristol last month when Kenneth Macharia, a gay rugby player for local team Bristol Bisons, was detained and threatened with deportation. Close to 100,000 people have signed a petition against Kenneth’s deportation to Kenya, where he would be persecuted because of his sexuality.

Proposing a motion at the Full Council meeting on December 11, Green Party councillor  Fi Hance said: “Refugees and asylum seekers in this country suffer abuse from a number of sources. One of the most pernicious abuses meted out to refugees is by our own governments in the form of indefinite detention. This practice has meant that thousand upon thousand of innocent people have been picked up from their homes – often with no notice – and taken to detention centres, which essentially are prisons in all but name.”

She spoke of the “staggering number of mistakes” made by the Home Office that sees innocent people wrongly detained, often at short notice for many months at a time.

 

Leader of the Lib Dem group, Cotham councillor Anthony Negus added his support for the motion, stating: “It’s time that we put an end to this shameful and inhumane approach.”

The motion opposing immigration detention did not pass without controversy. Despite cross-party support from Green, Labour and Lib Dem Councillors, Conservative councillors put forward an alternative amended version which was voted down. Mark Weston, leader of the Conservative group, told the council chamber: “The system is far from perfect and I’m not going to defend the entire system because it needs reform. However, I do believe that detention is necessary in some circumstances.”

Commenting on the successful vote, Fi Hance said:

“I’m delighted that this motion has been passed and am proud that Bristol is joining a growing number of cities, such as Manchester, Brighton, and Liverpool, in telling the government that the indefinite detention of immigrants and asylum seekers is unjust and unacceptable. I hope the Mayor will help us take this campaign to the government and demand reform of this cruel and inhumane policy as soon as possible.”

David Ion from the campaign group These Walls Must Fall said: “By passing this motion the city council have shown that they are as committed as the people of Bristol are to ending immigration detention. This is a great victory for our campaign and will mean Bristol will play a leading role in the ongoing fight against our country’s most shameful institution. Thank you to all those councillors who showed their support.”

Currently in the UK approximately 27,000 people are detained in immigration detention every year, many having committed no criminal offence, but for lacking the correct immigration papers or pending administration of their case. Detention is at centres in prison-like conditions, with no time limit on how long people might be held – detainees do not know whether they will be held for weeks, months or years. The UK is the only country in Europe to detain people indefinitely in this way, at a cost to the government over £100 million per year.

Bristol now joins the growing number of cities across the country demanding an end to immigration detention.