Sharing experiences of visiting immigration detainees
The best way to find out about visiting is to hear from volunteer visitors themselves, and those who have been supported in detention.
This area is in development, but for now we share some testimony from visitors old and new:
"People often don't seem to know that Yarl’s Wood is there, and there is obviously a huge amount of negative publicity about asylum seekers. Some people will take the attitude that “well, they shouldn't be here anyway” - they're not really interested.
But if you tell them an individual story about the experiences of one particular woman, they're often quite taken aback - and then they're not just a faceless, nameless group of people. There are some very individual, painful stories that people will feel somewhat differently about and think, “well, perhaps she should stay then." So telling peoples' stories, being that witness, I think it’s very important.”
Heather became a visitor with Yarl’s Wood Befrienders in 2005 and was the group’s Coordinator from 2006 to 2015.
"What I can’t help thinking whenever I go to Dungavel detention centre is how much better off the UK would be with these people in the community rather than locked up, out of sight out of mind.
They're put in a position where they've got no control whatsoever over their lives. They're in this limbo that can last they don’t know how long for. It’s a situation where people are really deprived of a future, see it wasting away, just sitting there..."
Giovanna is a visitor and committee member with Scottish Detainee Visitors. She has been visiting Dungavel since 2010.
"I started about 12 years ago, and I’m just as keen to visit now as I was in the beginning, probably more so. With all the problems that are going on in the world today, it’s just getting worse and worse. I just want to tell everybody people’s stories - because people just aren’t aware of what goes on.
One of the first people I visited was a man from Iraq - he’d been tortured, and kidnapped. He was in a terrible state. I had a terrible job trying to communicate with him. But over the weeks, you sort of make a break through. He began to relay his story to me - but you have to listen a lot. We often got a lot of silences. But I think it helped him. He was very strong."
Beryl visits with Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and has been a visitor for 12 years.