CAFOD, CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network) and JRS UK (Jesuit Refugee Service UK) all work to support refugees and migrants in different ways. Together, we are encouraging the Catholic community to act in welcome, respect and love during this Year of Mercy.
In this guest blog, Caroline Grogan from CSAN shares some of what CSAN and JRS are doing to speak out for refugees in the UK.
The issue of immigration detention is particularly important to CSAN which works with the Detention Forum, (a network of organisations working together to challenge the UK’s use of detention). Immigration detention is when someone who does not have the legal right to remain in the UK is detained, until a decision is reached about their eligibility to remain in the country or be deported.
Inspired by the values of Catholic Social Teaching, the two most fundamental principles for CSAN are Human Dignity and the Common Good. This means that we are all equal in the eyes of God. We share the world and therefore share the responsibility for protecting our brothers and sisters in detention.
The human side of this issue is so important. Those people who migrate to the UK are created in God’s image just like you and me. Emeritus Archbishop Kevin McDonald described this concept as being “closely bound up with one another and … closely bound up with the people who are living in Harmondsworth Detention Centre”.
CSAN opposes indefinite detention rather than detention itself and believes that currently immigration removal centres in the UK do not respect the fundamental human dignity of those indefinitely detained, especially those with mental health issues and those who have been tortured.
We have found that indefinite detention causes severe anxiety and distress, worsening the suffering of people who have fled their country. Furthermore, the uncertainty of not knowing when detainees will be released shows a lack of respect and dignity.
Detention centre doctors are required to report to the Home Office “any detained person whose health is likely to be injuriously affected by continued detention or any conditions of detention.” This rule is in place to protect vulnerable detainees whose health is likely to be affected, such as someone with suicidal thoughts or who’s been the victim of torture. But it doesn’t take into account that unnecessary detention worsens mental health conditions.
The Jesuit Refugee Service, one of our member organisations, visits people with mental health conditions in detention centres every week and advocates on their behalf. They recognise these people should simply not be detained.
On a recent trip to Calais, a delegation from CSAN met a young Afghan boy who was detained shortly after arriving in the UK. Whilst in detention, he learnt his mother and father had been killed by the Taliban. Being in detention only made his grief worse.
As Catholics, we are morally compelled to preoccupy ourselves with the indignities faced by people in detention. We must address the injustices faced by thousands whose only ‘crime’ is taking the chance to live a happy, safe and dignified life.