What does social distancing mean in immigration detention?

by Mr. Njoku, Freed Voices Campaigner

I would like to express my deepest sympathy and warmest solidarity to brothers and sisters locked up in the UK’s Immigration detention during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Indefinite immigration detention is inhumane and goes against basic human rights. I am one of you. I passed through those same gates and was locked in those same cells when I was detained. I can feel your pain and fear – they are all very real.

The Home Office has not learnt the lessons from the Windrush Scandal where all the warning signs were ignored and that lead to a human disaster.

I know from experience that access to basic healthcare in immigration detention is very hard, even during normal times. But these are not normal times. I wonder and worry what it might be like during this period of panic and great need.

I saw that the Home Office said that people in immigration detention will be shielded from Covid-19, but it is hard to see how this is realistic or practical – and now we are starting to see the first confirmed cases in detention centres, with many more showing symptoms.

What does social distancing mean in detention? You are forced to share a bathroom with hundreds of others and queue up for your food. You don’t even have a window to open and no ventilation in your room. You can’t go for a walk in the park. You are trapped.

During this time of crisis, we all need each other. Be rest assured that we will do everything we can to fight for you.

Stay safe. We, Freed Voices, Detention Action and thousands of others are on your side and campaigning for you.

With solidarity.