A rabbi said that a visit to a detention centre for asylum-seekers yesterday left him “almost in tears”.
Rabbi Zvi Solomons, of Reading Synagogue, was a part of a joint delegation organised by Tzelem, the rabbinical call for social justice, and Jewish human rights charity Rene Cassin to the Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in Middlesex.
Rabbi Solomons said that he was “almost in tears” when hearing of the frustration of one man who had been fighting to remain in Britain for a decade and had been detained for seven months.
The man’s stepson was also “suffering from the absence of the only stable father he has known,” Rabbi Solomons said.
He criticised the system in which people could be detained indefinitely as “utterly unfair and arbitrary, and hide-bound by bureaucracy”.
Rabbi Alexandra Wright, of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood, cited the case of another detainee who was due to be deported in weeks after the expiry of his student visa but would be in danger if he returned to his home country.
“After decades of civil war and human rights violations, there is a warrant for his arrest dating back to an anti-government protest in which he was involved,” she said. “From the thick pile of papers in front of us, he pulled out his medical report; a body diagram showed injuries to both his knees where he had probably been beaten up or tortured.”
She said that “the promise of this young man’s life is darkened by unjust imprisonment and a daily diet of uncertainty about his future”.
Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said that “locking up people without any limit on the time – many of whom are vulnerable and will eventually be granted a temporary or a permanent stay here – is particularly poignant at Pesach, when we Jews commemorate freedom for oppression in Egypt.”
He hoped that the visit – co-ordinated with charity Detention Action – would “highlight the plight of these often isolagted people who have endured conditions in their own homelands akin to slavery – and give them some assurance that they are not entirely alone.”