AVID is the national network for volunteers and groups visiting those detained under Immigration Acts in the UK. We believe that those held in immigration detention are entitled to the same basic human rights as everyone else. Since 1994, we have worked to promote the welfare and human dignity of every detainee. In that time the use of detention has expanded rapidly- when we started there were 250 places of detention. There are now 3,500.
We are a membership network, with 19 member visitors groups (over 400 volunteers) as well as many individual members, who give their time to befriend and support immigration detainees across the country. Our members visit in every Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in the UK, but also in ‘Short term’ holding facilities and even mainstream prisons. All visitor groups are independent, but work with AVID and each other to share best practice and to promote a collective voice for change based on detainees’ real life experiences. You can find out about becoming a member here.
We are based in North London, where our office is staffed by a full time Director and office volunteers. We are supported by a Board of Trustees, comprising visitors and former visitors. Trustees are elected annually from our membership.
AVID is wholly independent of government or detention centres.
You can find out more about visiting immigration detainees and volunteer visitors groups near you by following the links to the left.
What do we do?
Supporting volunteer visitors
We work with and through our membership to ensure detainees have access to the emotional and practical support of a volunteer visitor. Visiting is one of the most valuable ways to give your time, and one of the most rewarding. It is a demanding role- often a visitor is the only person a detainee sees who is not an official, and they are therefore a lifeline for detainees. We provide training for volunteers, equipping them with the skills to provide the best support they can and to deal with the difficult situations which may arise.
We also work to ensure regular information sharing, networking opportunities and workshops on current issues. We provide a Handbook for Visitors, which contains a wealth of information on the types of issues which volunteers may come across. We also provide advice on setting up and running new groups in response to the UK Government's expansion of the detention estate.
Raising awareness of immigration detention
Through contact with detainees, visitors and groups, and via our own research and monitoring, AVID is able to gather information on conditions across the detention estate and to use this to present a collective voice in advocating for change. We produce regular briefings on immigration detention, as well as our regular monthly newsletter In Touch which keeps volunteers up to date with detention policy and the work of their volunteer colleagues.
Advocating for change to the benefit of every detainee
AVID represents its membership at various UK Border Agency (UKBA) stakeholder meetings including the Detention and Escorting Forum and Detention Services’ events. We use these opportunities to advocate for improved conditions and standards for detainees, by putting forward the evidence from our membership and the detainees they visit. We are also members of the National Asylum Stakeholders Forum.
We also work to raise awareness of immigration detention and to challenge detention policy and practice. AVID has sought to take the voice of visitors and detainees to government, European committees, and other bodies concerned with the detention and treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, to improve conditions and inform policy.