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Robert Cusack

'Institutional racism' puts UK youths in jail indefinitely without trial

A group of activists protest against the treatment of refugees in the UK [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 3 November, 2017

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Young people who arrived in the UK as child refugees are being deported to countries they hold no links to once they reach 18, with many held in immigration limbo.
Young people with British identities are being held without trial in "prison-like" cells due to a culture of "institutional racism", a new report has warned.

Indefinite immigration detention without trial in the UK is "unfair" and should be replaced with a time-limited alternative, Dan Godshaw of the University of Bristol said.

"Young arrivers lament their differential treatment to British peers which some feel is linked to institutional racism," the report reads.

"Detention causes people who had previously felt British to begin to feel foreign, excluded from society and the identity they had grown up with."

Godshaw conducted a series of in-depth interviews with refugees who arrived in the UK as children and found the main difference between those held in indefinite detention and their contemporaries in the criminal justice system was the status of their passport.

At one centre, 45 percent of detainees reported experiencing suicidal thoughts in the past year

"Most of my respondents had British accents because they'd been educated in the UK - they had family and friend networks that were British," Godshaw said.

"Their identity was British but they were being deported to a country they knew nothing about," he added.

The report echoes many of David Lammy MP's findings in his September review of the criminal justice system.

"My conclusion is that BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] individuals still face bias, including overt discrimination, in parts of the justice system," Lammy said.

Speaking at a panel discussion at The Hive in east London on Thursday evening, a number of speakers voiced complaints over the "dehumanisation" of detainees.

"I think a lack of respect and a culture of arrogance over the humanity of people in detention comes from a disdain for people who are poorer or different to you – particularly if you're black or Muslim," said Hindpal Singh Bhui, a detention centre inspector.

The discussion was hosted by the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group and chaired by Thangam Debbonaire MP.

Godshaw reported on "a hidden but significant group" of young detainees that were facing deportation to countries they held no attachments to, often only due to an ignorance of the immigration system.

In his report, titled Don't Dump Me in a Foreign Land, Godshaw reported examples of detainees suffering from an "existential sense of shock" over their detention, with some reporting suicidal tendencies, depression and a sense of panic over deportation.

One panel member said that indefinite detention placed no pressure on the home office to work at speed, meaning that a majority of case workers "just wait out" the process, while detainees are left suffering in "immigration limbo".

"There have been at least three suicides and one murder in detention centres in the past two years," said Bhui.

"Something's changed, we have to work out what that is."

At one centre, 45 percent of detainees reported experiencing suicidal thoughts in the past year.

The report found that most young arrivers had experienced extreme trauma during childhood, leaving them "emotionally under-equipped for adulthood".

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