Human Rights Workshop

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Wantage CLP All Members Meeting

Human Rights workshop: Labour immigration detention policy

Thursday 18 June 2015, 7:30-9:30pm, the Quaker Meeting House, Wallingford

13 Castle Street, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8DL

Wantage Constituency Labour Party members are invited to participate in a discussion on how Labour Party policy on immigration detention should evolve. Discussants to include an immigration caseworker from Oxford East Constituency Labour Party, and a representative from the Campaign to Close Campsfield.

Human Rights workshop: Labour immigration detention policy

Human Rights are very much in people’s minds at the moment, as the current government have made a manifesto pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act (1998).

This year we’re also commemorating the 800th anniversary of the first Magna Carta, or Great Charter, that enshrined the rights and freedoms of the common ‘freemen’ of the Realm, which at the time consisted of England, Ireland, and parts of France. There were several editions of the Magna Carta enacted over the course of the 13th century. Three sections of the 1297 version are still current UK legislation : Sections 1, 9, and 29 (on Imprisonment).

There had been previous English legal agreements confirming that no one should be detained - imprisoned or otherwise deprived of their liberty - without trial or challenge, but section 29 of the Magna Carta is popularly taken to be the source of Habeas Corpus. Here is what section 29 of the Magna Carta says:

Section XXIX Imprisonment, &c. contrary to Law. Administration of Justice. NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be [deprived] of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor [deal with him,] but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell [Justice or Right] to no man, we will not deny [Justice or Right to any man], or defer either Justice or Right to any man.

All except these few lines of the Magna Carta have actually been repealed by various Acts of parliament over the years, mainly during the 19th Century. Perhaps section 29 has survived repeal down through these many centuries, because it cuts to the heart of what the majority of people consider to be fundamentally ‘right’ and ‘fair’: that rights and justice cannot be sold by those in authority, or delayed or denied, and that you cannot be imprisoned or removed from your home without due process of law.

Imagine how you would feel, if the police came to your house early one morning, and dragged you off to prison, and kept you there, indefinitely and against your will, without criminal charge or trial. It would be no more right if it was your neighbour, rather than you. It would be no more right if it was someone you don’t know, or if it was happening to others in your area, but without your awareness.

But would it be all right, so long as it was only happening to people who are not currently British or EU citizens, and who happen to be too poor to afford the required Visas or the Higher Education that qualifies them for a work permit?

It is of course happening, today, here in Oxfordshire and at immigration detention centres across Britain. Over 250 men are currently imprisoned without lawful judgement at Campsfield House, Langford Lane, in Kidlington, Oxford OX5, around 35 minutes driving from Wantage. Women and children are imprisoned at separate detention centres, in other parts of the country.

How should Labour Party policy on immigration detention evolve? Is immigration detention an appropriate response to the mass migration we are seeing now, with thousands fleeing war, personal persecution, and the effects of bad governance in Africa and many other parts of the world? Please come along to the Wantage CLP policy workshop, and find out more.

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