AVID Training
(You need to be a member and logged in to view this video)

AVID’s newest member, Jewish Detention Visitors, have written this guest blog on their motivations for setting up this group.

Just over a year ago, a small group affiliated with the Jewish human rights organisation Rene Cassin met to explore what solidarity with migrants could look like to mobilise and enthuse the Jewish communities across the UK to get behind this mission. And thus Jewish Detention Visitors was born.

The debate surrounding migrants has moved in and out of news headlines recently, particularly surrounding the Windrush Generation. This has led to a difficult balance in media discourse of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ that is being exposed within British society. There has commonly been a dichotomy that delineated the ‘good’ migrant from the ‘bad’, deciding that particular bodies are allowed some freedom of movement whilst others must be locked up. Instead we should offer solidarity to all those who are exposed to hostility.

At countless points throughout the Jewish calendar we think about how the Jewish people spent years as immigrants wandering the desert and there are a number of verses from the Torah that guide our attitude to refugees, most notably: “you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9). However, I believe that there is something deeper than our shared experience of exile or recent experiences of anti-Semitism that should denote how we act in support of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Rabbi Hillel states that ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) was the foundational value of Judaism.

René Cassin seeks an asylum system where human rights are a primary concern, not an afterthought. Whilst it is important that we call for #time4atimelimit, we can and should be doing more to call for a complete overhaul of the way in which we treat refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers. The incredible solidarity shown by visitors groups across the UK, as part of AVID, should inspire us. We need to listen to those who have experienced violence and abuse at the hands of our borders and our state and act in solidarity to ensure that this does not continue. Solidarity is a Jewish value, and it is at the heart of all visiting relationships.

One way that we can stand in solidarity with those detained in Immigration Removal Centres is to visit detainees to support them both practically and emotionally. We contacted AVID and, with their support, set about the process of establishing our group, ensuring volunteers received training and felt ready and able to start visiting, and were able to provide the best support we can in this complex area. We have seven volunteers, all eager to put this knowledge into action – now all we need are referrals. We are looking forward to working alongside other amazing groups to ensure that all people who want support in detention centres and prisons can be visited and know that we stand in solidarity with them.

Jewish Detention Visitors are ready to receive referrals from the SE area, including Colnbrook, Harmondsworth and Yarl’s Wood. For more information contact AVID.

Watch: Hidden Stories
Share this page