‘I just wanted to take my Bible, but they wouldn’t let me.‘
A detainee interviewed by NI Human Rights Commission Researchers, Our Hidden Borders: The UK Border Agency’s Powers of Detention, page 52
The Medical Justice Network campaigns to improve conditions for people in detention. Their literature gives a sense of how traumatic detention can be:
‘My torture was terrible, but giving birth in handcuffs came a close second.’
There is a Common Travel Area, including the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and citizens can cross the Irish border at present without any formal checks. There is also freedom of movement for members of the European Economic Area for the purposes of work.
The authorities in Ireland, both north and south, however, try to prevent movement for the purposes of human trafficking and other organised crime. They also try to control unauthorised movement into the island of Ireland or across the internal border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK by people from outside Europe who do not have the proper visas. In recent history, the enforcement of immigration controls, at our ports, airports and the border, has been through Operation Gull, a joint PSNI, Garda Síochána and Home Office operation.
Between 2010 and 2015 1,133 suspected immigration offenders were detected through Operation Gull.
In October 2016, the NI Secretary of State, James Brokenshire stated that there is still a ‘high level of collaboration on a joint programme of work’ between the ROI and the UK to control immigration.
The Home Office also conducts enforcement raids on homes and work premises within N I to detect immigration offenders who have either overstayed their work or visitors’ visas or who have never had proper documentation.
People within the asylum system have to report regularly to the Home Office in Belfast and may be detained at any time, if it is felt that their case has little hope of success, if they have exhausted all appeals, or have broken Home Office rules. This makes reporting a frightening process.
Immigration enforcement is not without problems:
• Travellers may be stopped or detained by mistake.
• There have been accusations of racial profiling.
• People, including asylum applicants, may stray across the border because they are unaware of its existence.
• Those who live on one side of the border and work on the other may experience difficulties.
• The victims of human trafficking may find it hard to prove that they are not immigration offenders or willing participants in organised crime, such as cannabis farming.
• Asylum applicants who are detained may lose their belongings and find it hard to maintain contact with legal advisers and friends.
• Immigration detention is like being imprisoned, is stressful and has no legal time limit.
Read more about these issues:
Migration Observatory briefing, Deportations, Removals and Voluntary Departures, July 2017