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Have you been detained by immigration border force? | Immigration Matters

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The Christmas holiday period can a dangerous time to be picked up and detained by the UK Border Agency. Finding an Immigration Lawyer will be extremely difficult and there is a high probability that you will be counting down the New Year from a prison cell.

You may be surprised to learn that even British citizens can find themselves banged up in an immigration detention centre over a holiday period when there is little legal help available to hear to their pleas.

Immigration Matters has teamed up with a network of immigration law practitioners and Barristers to offer bail and appeal services for those who find themselves locked up over the holidays.

You may the following article shocking when you learn that people in Britain today can be detained indefinitely, pending deportation or appeals.

Writing for the Guardian Ellie Mae O’Hagan recently visited the charity Detention Action, which campaigns for a change to British policies on the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers, some (but by no means all) of whom have been convicted of crimes in British courts.

She met Jay: young, quick-witted, and – as he put it – “first and foremost a Londoner”. His story is typical of young men who become entangled in the UK’s detention system.

Jay’s family sought asylum from Sri Lanka when he was five years old. As he got older he became caught up in a life of petty crime and drugs and was eventually convicted of a robbery. After a stint in prison, Jay was placed in a high-security immigration detention centre for months, never knowing if he would be released, but being certain that if he was, it would be so he could be deported to Sri Lanka – a country he had not seen since he was a child. His family are all British citizens, and so is he in everything but paperwork. Even so, he has spent most of his adult life being shunted around the immigration system, never knowing if he would be incarcerated indefinitely again or deported to a country in which he could face danger, and with which he felt little connection. “My immigration issues have been a dark cloud hanging over me,” he says. “I was no angel, but I’m not a person Britain needs protecting from.”

Like many other former detainees, Jay was at the wrong end of the single most controversial element of UK immigration law: the fact that the government imposes no time limit on the detention of migrants.

The UK is the only country in Europe that does this. Foreign nationals who commit a crime on British soil will serve a prison sentence, and could then be held in a prison-like detention centre with no definite date of release while the UK Border Agency works out how or if they can be deported – a process that can take months, or even years.

In a recent case, a Somalian man was discovered to have been in detention in Lincoln for nine years, after already serving an eight-year prison sentence. The HM Inspectorate of Prisons statement condemned his detention as a form of imprisonment without trial: “It cannot be right that [he continues] to be detained for so long without the authority of a court.”

This policy is the sole reason that former detainees give for preferring prison to detention. Some spoke of their dignity being robbed, their sense of humanity eroded once they arrived at the detention centre.

Frank, a Congolese asylum seeker, who was arrested and detained for more than three years after trying to leave the UK with a fake document, said: “You don’t have any control over any aspect of your life. You just lie there, staring at the ceiling. At least with prison you know it will end.”

All the former detainees shared harrowing stories of their time in detention: depression, alienation, despair, self-harm – unsurprising responses to what is effectively an indefinite prison sentence.

In April 2006, the Labour Government introduced a secret policy of “presumption of detention”. This policy was at odds with the Government’s stated policy of “presumption of liberty”, and established the idea that, if you are foreign, you should be locked up even after you have served your time in prison. In 2009, the policy was found to be unlawful and withdrawn. But the assumptions underlying it remain. The UKBA policy is structured to all but ensure detention, since it focuses overwhelmingly on the risks of reoffending.

Last week, HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration found that: “Detention of ex-prisoners appeared to have become the norm rather than as a rigorously governed last resort.”

The Home Office seems determined to detain migrants – even if their families are British; even if they arrived in the UK as toddlers; even if their lives will be endangered by deportation; even if millions of pounds are wasted every year by detaining people who cannot be deported. Source: Ellie Mae O’Hagan, The Guardian.

Cynthia Barker of Bison UK Immigration Advisers, a firm which has helped detainees secure a release, said indefinite detention or detention for long periods is becoming more common.

“In one recent case a student visa holder was detained for 80 days after he was refused an extension.

“He was a polite young man who had never been in trouble with the law, was studying at University and had no need to work as he was fully supported by his family back home in Nigeria.

“We managed to rescue him minutes before his specially chartered “deportation” plane was about to take off from Stanstead Airport only because he was in a relationship with an EEA national – even then the Home Office wanted to ignore this and remove him that night.”

Following his release, the smartly dressed student spoke of being “locked up in a prison cell with suspected terrorists and convicted murderers”.

Overstaying students are now being targeted by private firms, such as Capita, hired by the UKBA to track people down.

According to ILPA, the firms are going beyond their remit by using tactics such as sending text messages to migrants telling them they have no right to stay in the UK and should leave.

If you have been detained, need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email: or visit for free immigration news updates.

Related Immigration Articles:

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New Immigration Rules split non-EEA families apart

Statement of Changes to UK Immigration Rules effective tomorrow

How to appeal against a visa refusal

More deterrents to overseas students as UK Home Secretary announces ECO interviews to “root out visa abuse”

Romanian Family wins UK Immigration Appeal against Yellow Card and Blue Card Refusal

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