On 25th November last year, St Mark’s member and Waymark’s former editor Jane Aaronson lit our Chalice with these words.
Before lighting the chalice today, I am going to read you a statement on behalf of Refugee Tales.
Refugee Tales is a pressure group that works in support of detained refugees.
The statement had a profound effect on me. I heard it at the Book Festival in August, read by our Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay, together with Kamila Shamsie, a Pakistani-British writer.
“The UK is in the only country in Europe that detains people indefinitely under immigration rules. In 2017, according to Home Office statistics, over 27,000 people were detained in this way. At any one time between 2,500 and 3,000 people were detained indefinitely. 50% of all those detained indefinitely are released back into the community. Detention might only be for days and weeks, but it can be for months and years. The longest a person has been detained in the UK is 9 years.
A person who is charged and convicted has a sentence; they can count down the days till they are released. People who are detained indefinitely are not charged with anything; they can only count the days up. Day after day, week after week, they don’t know when they might be released. Once detained, a person can be re-detained, and re-detained without limit. More than one person a day requires treatment for self-harming in UK detention centres. Between November 2016 and November 2017 in UK detention centres there were 10 deaths. By every measure and every charter, indefinite detention is a breach of human rights. ‘No one,’ as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, ‘shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.’ Indefinite detention denies due process and is a breach of the rule of law.
In 2017 the Bar Council called for an end to indefinite detention. In 2017 the British Medical Association called for an end to Indefinite Detention. In 2015 a cross-party report on indefinite detention concluded categorically that it was time for a limit.
It costs £34,000 to detain a person for a year. It costs £140 million a year to maintain the current detention system.
Indefinite Detention is a waste of money. Indefinite Detention is a waste of life. If you heard these things about another country, imagine what you would say.
Refugee Tales calls for an immediate end to indefinite detention. It is time for a limit of 28 days. Indefinite Detention is an offence against humanity. Indefinite Detention must end.
The law must change, now.”
I now light the chalice in support of Refugee Tales to highlight the plight of refugees and in the hope that we all as individuals and together as a congregation can help to ensure that they will be treated with more compassion and humanity in future.
Words reproduced with kind permission from Refugee Tales.