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UKC Amnesty International presents panel discussion: The ‘Second Torture’ of Immigration Detainees

Photo by: UKC Amnesty International

On Friday 27 March, the Amnesty International society at the University of Kent hosted a panel discussion on asylum detention. The panel, consisting of four speakers, provided various perspectives on why detaining asylum seekers in detentions is damaging to both them and society.

The first speaker, Sheona York, from Kent Law Clinic, spoke about how changes to legal aid has meant that lawyers can no longer provide adequate legal aid to the vast majority of potential asylum claimants and immigrants. York said that the claims, compulsory in Liverpool with a valid passport, has not only made it more expensive, but has also made it impossible for many to pursue their claim.

The second speaker, Ivo Kuka, an ex-detainee who fled Cameroon after being detained and tortured, highlighted the emotional trauma that detention can induce. One panelist said: “they are not counting down the days till freedom but counting up the days of imprisonment.” Kuka explained how the medical officer and the Home Office refused to believe that he was a victim of torture, and spoke of the challenges that face detainees once they have been released – specifically, the struggles of integrating into a community.

The third speaker, Lisa Incledon from Medical Justice, focused on the health rights of detainees. Incledon spoke of the inadequate medical care, and highlighted the trauma and depression many have suffered in detention centres. She pointed to the fact that this system has resulted in several deaths of detainees as well as being in violation of Article 3 of the Human Rights Act, which prohibits treatment that causes intense physical or mental suffering. Given the prevalence of mental illness in detention, Medical Justice argues: the Act is being violated.

The final speaker, Rosa Potter who works for Samphire, a visitor group at Dover Detention Centre spoke of the emotional support they offer to detainees. Sampshire often refer detainees to charities or get them legal aid, but Potter said this has become increasingly difficult due to the restriction of legal aid. Charities are becoming overworked and are no longer able to accept cases. Sampshire recommend a time limit of 28 days for detention, as this will help by cutting down the emotional trauma that is caused by being detained indifferently.

Several events planned by various organisations aim to promote a better understanding of the situation. One event provides the opportunity to hear migrants talking about their experiences, and the other event is a week long walk in June. Information on the two events can be found here and here.

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