Calais, 13-14 February 2014

A reminder that it’s not just Syrians who are being harmed by Europe’s desire to “seal” its borders.

My report for the NS on what’s been happening on the Greek-Turkish-Bulgarian borders. Photos by Eirini Vourloumis.

"[…] the UK’s arbitrary detention of asylum seekers has a much longer history than just the past decade. It started in the mid-1980s under the Thatcher governments, and by the early 1990s some 200 asylum seekers were detained at any one time (many in criminal prisons). In 1987, the Home Office even used a disused car-ferry in Harwich harbour to detain 100 asylum seekers, but that came to an end in the storm of October that year, when the ferry broke free of its moorings and began to sink. From 1993 onwards, the number detained at any one time increased rapidly, to reach some 850 by 1996. In opposition, Jack Straw was persuaded that the practice was not only in breach of international legal norms but also highly profligate, and in 1999 the first of New Labour’s many immigration acts provided for new legal safeguards. However, in 2002 those provisions were repealed, without ever being implemented, by the next home secretary (Blunkett). The creation and later expansion of the DFT inflated the number detained even further. So, after 30 years of campaigning and legal challenges, we’ve made hardly any progress at all. And, with honourable exceptions, the legal profession has barely said a word on the matter over three decades."

— Interesting comment under my New Statesman piece on fast-track immigration detention.

"He was granted the right to appeal and managed to contact a range of charities to help him build his case. As his case was being prepared, John was suddenly told that he would be moved from the detention centre to a regular prison. In the prison he was made to switch mobile service providers, which meant the charities found it difficult to contact him. He was given a new email address and lost access to his archive of correspondence. During his stay in the prison, an official spoke to him and said “this place is no good, why don’t you voluntarily return to your home country?”"

— openDemocracy, "Inside Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’", December 2013

"In just over a decade, an unprecedented system for detaining people who have committed no crime, and who pose no threat to public safety, has sprung up almost unnoticed. The high court will decide whether the fast track is legal. For the rest of us, perhaps it’s time to decide whether we are happy this system exists at all – and, if not, what we should do about it."

— New Statesman, "Why does Britain detain so many asylum-seekers?", December 2013