AVID, the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, was founded in 1994 in response to the increase in numbers of people being held in immigration detention, and the local community reaction to this.
At that time there were around 250 immigration detention spaces. Immigration detention was not well known, or understood. But once people heard that migrants were being held in their communities in prisons, or prison conditions, for administrative reasons, there was no shortage of offers to help in whatever way they could.
It soon became clear that visiting in detention was not easy. People in detention were isolated, anxious about what was going to happen, and the policy and legal environment was difficult to comprehend. Originally formed by visitors at Winchester Prison and Haslar Immigration Removal Centre, AVID was set up to provide support, training and information to these volunteer befrienders, and to help visitors around the country learn from each other. This remains our key aim more than 20 years later.
Over the years AVID has maintained a constant presence in detention. We've set up new groups as the use of detention has grown, trained thousands of volunteers, helped raise awareness of immigration detention, and been a critical voice for change throughout these years. Volunteer visitors are now established in every single detention centre, and short term holding facility. Many thousands of detainees have been supported during their detention.
There are now closer to 4,000 immigration bed spaces, and the use of immigration detention continues to grow, despite mounting criticism. AVID now has a London office base, two full time staff, and a number of volunteers. For as long as detention continues in the UK, we will work to ensure those held are not ignored.