The UK is the only country in Europe not to have a time limit on how long immigrants can be detained. Innocent and often vulnerable people are routinely locked up for indefinite periods. As part of the campaign 'Time for a time limit', the Jewish human rights charity René Cassin is co-ordinating an interfaith day of action at Harmondsworth in West London (next to the largest immigration detention centre in Europe) today, Sunday, 5 July.
The event aims to highlight the plight of those held in immigration centres and to press for a maximum time limit of 28 days' detention.
The programme features the first-hand testimony of former detainees, and interfaith teachings and discussions. It will conclude with a breaking of the fast, as Sunday falls within the Muslim fast of Ramadan and the Jewish fast of 17th of Tammuz.
Speakers include: Freed Voices - a group of former detainees held in the UK; Most Rev Kevin McDonald, Emeritus Archbishop of Southwark; Rabbi Natan Levy, chair of the Jewish Social Action Forum; Imam Dr Mamadou Bocoum, director of Interfaith through the Arts
Speaking before the event, Mia Hasenson-Gross, director of René Cassin, said: "The populist view is that the UK is a soft touch for immigrants. The truth is very different. At Harmondsworth, innocent and often vulnerable people are locked up indefinitely. Their only 'crime' is that they asked us for help. Almost exactly 800 years after it was agreed at nearby Runnymede, Magna Carta's most famous clause - 'to no-one will we deny or delay right or justice' - rings very hollow to the people in places like Harmondsworth. We demand a limit of 28 days detention - justice must not be denied or delayed any longer."
At the event, Archbishop Kevin McDonald, said: "These vulnerable people, many who have survived war, trauma and persecution, will experience severe distress and further loss of dignity while they wait for their asylum claims to be processed. The people in Harmondsworth may only be 200 metres from us, but in terms of the rights that every human deserves - justice, equality and liberty - they are a million miles away."
Rabbi Natan Levy said: "As a Jew, whose history is laden with the story of immigrants seeking a home - from the promised land to a safe harbour for the St. Louis during the Holocaust - we know the heart of the refugee. Our history obliges us to call for change - it means nothing if we do not choose to act when the stranger cries out for our help."
Imam Dr Mamadou Bocoum commented: "I genuinely believe that the Abrahamic Tent can both highlight and expose the inhuman treatment that many people are going through - but the event also has the potential to help the wider public to understand how counterproductive and ineffective it is to have these detention centres in our country.
For more information about the event see: www.renecassin.org/time-for-a-time-limit-tent/
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