4a. Detention

I’m always depressed, every day, because I’m always thinking we don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow, and sometimes you get some people being snatched by immigration officers…you’re always in fear, at night, even if you hear any sound you are scared, maybe it is them coming for you (refugee from Zimbabwe, arrived in Britain in 2006)

By the time the Labour Party left office in 2010 it had expanded the capacity of immigration detention to over 3,000, among the largest in Europe. The most common category of detainees in 2010 was people who had sought asylum.[1] Nick Gill found that regular movement of detainees between centres disrupted their attempts to build networks, and left little opportunity to form relationships with non-detainees, either with detention centre staff or local support and activist organisations. This encouraged attitudes toward detainees as fundamentally transient and facilitated the dehumanisation of detainees as passive objects to be ‘managed’, with evidence that those trying to complain or organise were particularly liable to be transferred. [2]


[1] Silverman, S. J. (2011). Immigration Detention in the UK. Oxford: The Migration Observatory.

[2] Gill, N. (2009). ‘Governmental mobility: the power effects of the movement of detained asylum seekers around Britain’s detention estate’. Political Geography, 28(3), 186-196.

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