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AVID calls for an immediate halt to all removals, and for the release of all immigration detainees, in response to COVID 19

AVID is extremely concerned about the risk posed by the current COVID 19 crisis on people in immigration detention. There is a very serious risk of an uncontrolled outbreak in detention, as communicable diseases often spread much more quickly in incarceration settings. In light of the current pandemic, we are asking the Home Office to immediately cease all removals and to release all those held administratively, to avoid a public health disaster and loss of life.

We are worried that the Government’s current response to COVID 19 will result in more harm to already vulnerable populations inside detention. Healthcare provision inside detention has come under intense scrutiny and criticism in recent years. Many people in detention have recently arrived from countries experiencing higher levels of the virus, and this - along with the frequency of movements between detention facilities - will exacerbate and heighten the spread of infection.

People in immigration detention rely on access to NGO support such as the volunteer visiting provided by our members. It is vital that access to justice is maintained through contact with lawyers and other specialist supports. Current strategies around social distancing will potentially have a huge impact on this already vulnerable population, leaving them isolated at a time of crisis.

The use of immigration detention is justified on the basis of removal, but as international travel is affected and borders are closed, it is difficult to see how this assertion can remain valid.

We are therefore calling for the Home Office to immediately release all held and for an immediate halt on all removals.

We have also been in touch with the Home Office to ask for information about the protection measures being put in place, and steps taken to mitigate the spread of the virus, in the immediate term. We are still waiting for a response.

AVID is the national network of voluntary organisations supporting people detained in UK immigration centres. We are a network of 16 organisations, around 550 volunteers, who provide support in every detention centre, residential short term holding facility and some prisons.

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