Abraham_Ibrahim Inter-Faith Tent on Harmondsworth Moor

under canvas 2Sunday July 5 (Ramadan and 17th of Tammuz) on Harmondsworth Moor

The UK is the only European country not to have a limit on how long someone can be kept in immigration detention. The result is an expensive, ineffective and unjust system that:

  • wastes millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money
  • fails to achieve its goals
  • treats vulnerable people inhumanely, often causing physical and mental health problems.

We gathered as people of all faiths and none near Harmondsworth Detention Centre – the biggest detention centre in Europe – to fast, pray, listen and raise our voice in solidarity with the strangers at our gates.

It is time for the UK Government to realise this system is broken.

It is time to treat all human beings with dignity.

It is time for a time limit #Time4aTimeLimit

We heard the moving testimonies of Freed Voices – a group of former detainees held in the UK. 

  • Rabbi Natan Levy – Tzelem 
  • Imam Mamadou Seydou Bocoum – Co-Director of Interfaith through the Arts & Interfaith Consultant for Faith Matters
  • Mohammad Uz-Zaman – Co-Director of Interfaith through the Arts
  • Most Rev Kevin McDonald – Emeritus Archbishop of Southwark, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Committee for Other Faiths and of the Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations
  • QARN was represented by Sheila Mosley

“You are to treat the resident alien the same way you treat the native born among you—love him like yourself, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt,” (Leviticus 19:34)

“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East or the West, but truly righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the Prophets, and spends his money for love of Him, on the kindred and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and those who ask for charity, and for ransoming the captives” (Al Quran 2:178)

This event was coordinated by René Cassin and Tzelem

Sheila’s report is here:

Abraham/Ibrahim Inter-faith tent with a concern about indefinite detention
Harmondsworth Moor, just down the road from Harmondsworth/Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centres on Sunday 5 July 2015, which is a fasting day for Ramadan and 17th of Tammuz.
The day was organised by Rene Cassin and Tzelem. It was attended by Muslim Imams, a number of Rabbis and other Jews, an Archbishop and other Christians,  Ben and Jerome from Detention Forum,  and I was representing Quakers/Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network – QARN.
We were joined in the morning by three people from Freed Voices who have experienced indefinite detention, who spoke about the physical and emotional effects of being detained indefinitely, and the impact on social relationships for the detained person and those close to them. One of the men clearly wore a tag as condition of his bail.  Their stories clearly moved everyone, and the Freed Voices speakers were all clear that visitors are really appreciated when in detention.
John McDonaldThe second session was a sharing from a faith perspective. Everyone was agreed that indefinite detention is wrong, and there was some discussion about the place of a sense of humanity at the heart of religion.
John McDonald MP (Labour – the local MP) joined us for a while.  He pointed out that the financial and logical arguments against indefinite detention have had limited effect, and suggested that a co-ordinated Ecumenical approach coming from a moral perspective may be a useful added pressure. He suggested that people should be applying pressure where possible to encourage the Government to accept the very recent Court’s decision that the Fast-Track detention system is unlawful, rather than to appeal it.
under canvas 2We were joined by Jerome from Detention Action and Detention Forum who spoke about how the small victories were coming together, in particular the All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry into Immigration Detention, and the challenge to the Fast Track system.  It is important that a variety of people are seen to be taking up the issues, and for now the key issue is to push for a time limit on detention of 28 days by writing letters and visiting our MPs.
We spent some time thinking about who we have influence on, and how that may be useful, and what the faiths groups can bring – a fresh approach, structure, organisation and people. The idea of an Ecumenical Council came up again, and there is some enthusiastic support for this.
The group Freed Voices, and others who participated in today offer to visit other town and cities for inter-faith meetings – please consider holding a meeting in your area to talk about this issue and perhaps combine it with a letter-writing session or organising a group visit to the local MP. The Tent was a beginning for inter-faith work of this kind. Next time, we should invite members of the local Quaker Meeting to attend.

See also: