There’s an injustice you may not know about, taking place in this country right now. You may be aware that people seeking asylum are increasingly subjected to detention in other countries: in the USA, in Australia, to name just two countries that have recently hit the news. What you may not know is that the UK is the only country in Europe that detains people indefinitely under immigration rules and that in 2017 over 27,000 people were detained indefinitely in removal centres all around the UK. The conditions in the centres are frequently like prison and there is no judicial oversight of the process of detaining people. Not knowing how long incarceration will last has a terrible effect upon their mental health.
Stories transform: to draw attention to the fact that the UK is the only country in Europe that detains people indefinitely, and to call for that policy to end, the charity Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group uses The Canterbury Tales as a model for sharing experiences of those who have been detained. Every year Refugee Tales goes on a long walk, and everywhere it stops the stories of people who have been held in indefinite detention are shared. Authors of the tales include writers such as Ali Smith and Abdulrazak Gurnah, who are the patrons of Refugee Tales. There are two books of Tales (written and told on the walks of 2015, 16, and17) published by Comma Press. Refugee Tales calls for an end to indefinite detention and a 28 day time limit for detention.
28 Tales for 28 Days is a new initiative to highlight the call for a time limit and to extend conversations about indefinite detention. Actors such as Jeremy Irons, Christopher Eccleston, Shobu Kapoor, Zoe Wanamaker and Niamh Cusack and writers such as Kamila Shamsie, Patience Agbabi and Neel Mukherjee will be filmed reading the tales of those who have experienced detention and those who have worked with them. All writers and actors will donate their work. Studio space is also donated. The funding we need is for filming, editing and distribution. The total cost of the project is £13,070 and we have raised £4,070 so far before starting our crowdfunding for £9,000.
One by one: 28 Tales will appear online each day over 28 days taking our message to a new audience. Crucially, the 28th tale will be read in Westminster taking the tales to parliamentarians who have the power to bring about legislative change and end the injustice of indefinite immigration detention.
As Ali Smith wrote: 'We will tell it like it is, and we will work towards the better imagined'.