Detention and deportation: how you can help

Detention of refugees and asylum seekers is used by countries across the world in an attempt to manage migration, but this strategy comes with a heavy cost.

Detention and deportation is expensive, inefficient and inhumane. Men, women and even children are deprived of their liberty and often forced to live in appalling conditions.

What’s wrong with detention?

Most people who are detained feel like they are treated as criminals, even though they have not committed a crime.

People often do not know why they have been detained, when they will be released, nor can they regularly communicate with family, friends and relatives.

Detention damages people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

The harm caused by such lengthy deprivations of liberty is compounded by the fact that those claiming asylum are five times more likely to have mental health needs than the general population.

Victims of torture, sexual or gender-based violence, human trafficking and modern slavery, continue to be detained in unacceptable conditions, lacking the specialised support that they require, for prolonged amounts of time.

Detention may appear to be a simple solution to help manage migration, but in reality, there is a huge financial and moral cost.

In 2016, combined detention enforcement agencies cost the US government $19 billion. In the UK, it costs taxpayers over £100 million annually.

In addition to the financial cost, detention has lasting effects on those detained, and has resulted in a number of unlawful deportations of people back to unsafe countries – which, in some cases, has led to the death of the person deported.

What can you do to help

If you know someone in detention, or are aware of someone currently in detention, it can be a frightening and overwhelming experience. But there are things you can do to help.

Thousands march to demand that Yarl’s Wood detention centre is closed down. Image: Right to Remain

If someone is at risk of deportation, what can you do?

Though no one ever wants to experience this first hand, if you or someone you know is expecting to be deported, undergoing deportation, or has received removal orders, it’s really important to be prepared.

It is strongly recommended that anyone experiencing detention, and the threat of deportation, work with an immigration lawyer. Refugees and migrants with a lawyer are reportedly 6 times more likely to prevail in deportation proceedings than those without.

Here’s some more advice on what you can do to help, originally posted Right to Remain.

  • Airline campaigning

This is a last-minute action that may be possible if someone has been issued with a “courtesy letter” that gives details of the removal/deportation flight.

Taking action for the right to remain cannot just be about stopping a flight – if contacting the airline successfully stops the flight, this may buy some time for other actions to be taken and for legal avenues to be pursued.

Your supporters can contact the airline, explain you are being taken against your will and why you should not be taken from the UK, and ask the airline not to accept you on the flight.

Read more here.

  • Contact your MP

This action is more likely to succeed if you are already in contact with your MP about your case. Your MP may be able to contact the Home Office directly (asking to speak to or meet with the Home Secretary or Immigration Minister specifically if necessary) and ask them to cancel the removal/deportation while important legal actions are taken.

Read more here.

  • Prepare yourself for return

It is hard to allow yourself the space and the time to think about what will happen if you are removed/deported. It is hard for both the person facing removal/deportation, and supporters, because it can feel like admitting defeat before the fight is over. But some people may find it helpful to think through what might happen, and what they can do to prepare themselves.

Read more here.


Compassion and understanding should be at the heart of our immigration and asylum policies. Instead, the detention of refugees and migrants is a manifestation of systemic disregard for the wellbeing of vulnerable individuals.  Until an alternative is implemented, it will continue to produce heartbreaking and unnecessary consequences.


There are lots of incredible organisations working tirelessly to end detention and deportations. If you’d like to find out more information, visit Detention ActionFreed Voices, the Detention ForumSDS and Right to Remain to name a few.

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Help fill a container of vital aid for refugees in Greece

We need your help.

Greece container donations Needs List

We’re planning to fill a container of vital aid for refugees in Greece. That’s 1,500 boxes of much-needed supplies. But we can’t do it without you.

Could you organise a collection of food, clothing or hygiene items, then bring them to our drop-off point in East London on Saturday 1st June? If you can, we’ll get these donations to where they’re needed most in Greece.

We can’t do this without you. If you would like to coordinate a collection please register here and you’ll receive all the info you need about sorting, packing and how to drop off your donations.If you have any questions at all, please do get in touch.

If you’re unable to organise a collection but you’d still like to support this campaign and get involved you can by donating to help cover the shipping costs!


Thank you so much for your love, help and generosity.

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Help Refugees: open call for Northern France funding applications

Help Refugees is announcing the Northern France Fund: an open call for grant applications for aid organisations working in Calais and Dunkirk.

Since our work began in Calais in 2015 we’ve seen the situation in France change drastically.

Given the changing needs of the communities we support and organisational changes to our partners in Calais, we are adapting the way we work in Northern France. More information about those changes can be found here.

As a result, we are opening a call for project proposals from organisations supporting refugees and displaced people in Northern France.

Our priorities for funding in Northern France are:

  • The provision of material aid (essential and dignity centric clothing distribution, tents, sleeping bags, shoes etc)
  • Firewood distribution
  • Psychosocial support, legal advocacy, child protection and safeguarding support to unaccompanied minors
  • Psychosocial support and material aid for women and families
  • Monitoring, data collection and analysis of human rights violations

We are accepting calls from:

  • Existing organisations that are operating from the Calais warehouse
  • All other organisations delivering work in this sector, specifically to meet the needs of displaced communities in Northern France
  • Groups of individuals wishing to form associations or groups to meet these needs. This is a change to put forward plans and activities for growth
  • Existing partner organisations of Help Refugees who are currently not working in Northern France who wish to set up operations to meet need in Calais or Grande-Synthe

The focus of our funding for projects in Northern France will be to support homeless displaced people and applications supporting this vulnerable group will be our priority. Applications that are supporting people in full time accommodation may not be considered for this grant on that basis.

Full details:
Northern France Fund Information Pack (PDF, 87kb)

How to apply:

Northern France Fund Proposal Form (PDF, 72kb)

Please download and fill out the above form, then send it to us via email at with the title ‘Northern France Fund Application’.

The deadline is Friday 7​th ​ June (Midnight BST).

Help Refugees annonce le Northern France Fund : un appel à candidatures ouvert pour demandes de subventions pour les organisations humanitaires qui opèrent à Calais et Dunkerque.

Notre travail a commencé ici, à Calais, en 2015, et a évolué au cours des quatre dernières années afin d’être adaptatif à un environnement en changement constant, en offrant des services humanitaires essentiels à des milliers de personnes déplacées. Prenant en considération les besoins changeants des communautés que l’on supporte, et des changements organisationnels au sein de nos partenaires opérationnel, nous changeons notre modèle de travail afin qu’il s’adapte au contexte actuel. Plus d’information sur ces changements peut être trouvé ici.

Par conséquent, nous offrons un appel ouvert aux organisations qui soutiennent les réfugiés et les personnes déplacées dans le Nord de la France.

Nos priorités globales en matière de subvention dans le Nord de la France sont:

  • La provision d’aide matérielle (distribution de vêtements essentiels qui offrent la dignité, de tentes, de sacs de couchage, de souliers, etc.)
  • Distribution de bois de chauffage
  • Soutien psychosocial, aide légale, protection des enfants et des mineurs non-accompagnés
  • Soutien psychosocial et aide matérielle pour les femmes et les familles
  • Surveillance, collection de données et analyse des violations des droits de l’homme

Nous acceptons les applications:

  • D’organisations existantes qui opèrent à partir de l’entrepôt de Calais
  • De toute autres organisations qui travaillent dans le secteur, particulièrement dans le but de rencontrer les besoins des communautés déplacées dans le Nord de la France
  • De groupes d’individus désirant à former une association ou un groupe pour répondre à ces besoins
  • Des partenaires existants de Help Refugees qui n’opèrent pas présentement dans le Nord de la France qui souhaitent mettre en place des opérations pour rencontrer les besoins à Calais ou Grande-Synthe

Le focus de notre subvention pour les projets dans le Nord de la France sera de soutenir les personnes déplacées sans-abris, et les applications visant à soutenir ce groupe vulnérable auront priorité. Par ce fait, des applications qui visent à soutenir des gens ayant accès à un logement à temps plein pourraient ne pas être considérées pour cette subvention.

Plus de détails sur le Northern France Fund:

FR Northern France Fund Information Pack

FR Northern France Fund Application Form

Comment postuler:

Veuillez télécharger et remplir ce formulaire, puis envoyer un e-mail à avec l’objet “Application pour le Northern France Fund”.

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Update on Help Refugees’ Northern France operations

Since our work began in Calais in 2015 we’ve seen the situation in France change drastically.

After the dismantling of ‘The Jungle’, we’ve continued to help displaced people across the region and currently still support over 1000 men, women, children and families across Calais and Dunkirk. Without ’The Jungle’ camp making headlines, the situation here is less visible, but for the people living here is in many ways worse.


What we’re doing now

We currently work in partnership with, and financially support, seven incredible organisations in Calais who work out of a shared warehouse space in Calais

This grassroots collective provide everything from hot food, clothes, tents, firewood, child protection services, legal information, wifi, phone charging, specialist provision for women and children and education projects.


How this will change

We want to be as reactive as possible to the changing realities facing the displaced communities we support in Calais and want always to be open to improving our operations – to see change as a positive step in the direction of helping people in a better more effective way.

Our warehouse has been a hub of humanity that has seen tens of thousands of people volunteering and choosing love – an enormous feat of civil society. But this a movement that is bigger than any space and we remain committed to supporting all displaced people in Northern France.

As long as the rights of refugees and migrants are being let down and ignored by the British and French governments, we will be here. Volunteers, grassroots groups, people who care: are all essential parts of our plan for our continued work here.

Instead of a central warehouse space, we want to encourage pro-migration, pro-refugee civil society groups to continue to grow and meet the needs of the refugee populations here in a dynamic way. We aim to continue the essential work we currently do by financially supporting and facilitating partner associations, grassroots start-ups, groups of friends who want to help – any who want to be on the right side of history and could use our help in being there.

For that reason, we have announced the Northern France Fund, opening a call for funding applications from organisations supporting refugees and displaced people in Calais and Dunkirk.

More information: Northern France Fund details.

Help Refugees est résolu à aider les personnes déplacées dans le Nord de la France. Notre travail a commencé ici, à Calais, en 2015, et a évolué au cours des quatre dernières années afin d’être adaptatif à un environnement en changement constant, en offrant des services humanitaires essentiels à des milliers de personnes déplacées.

Prenant en considération les besoins changeants des communautés que l’on supporte, et des changements organisationnels au sein de nos partenaires opérationnel, nous visons à changer notre modèle de travail afin qu’il s’adapte au contexte actuel.

Help Refugees travaille présentement en partenariat avec sept organisations oeuvrant dans un entrepôt dans le Nord de la France, en plus de les appuyer financièrement. À partir de cet entrepôt, nous fournissons présentement, avec nos partenaires, des services à plus de 1000 personnes déplacées habitant entre Calais et Grande-Synthe. Ces services incluent de l’aide matérielle (produits non alimentaires), des repas chauds, du bois de chauffage, des services de protection de l’enfance, de l’information juridique, du wifi, des services de recharge pour téléphones, des services de spécialistes pour les femmes et enfants et des projets d’éducation.

L’obtention de ressources financières, le soutien des ressources humaines et la coordination de plusieurs groupes partenaires constituent nos plus grandes forces.

Ailleurs en Europe et au Moyen-Orient, nous travaillons comme bailleurs de fonds et facilitateurs pour des organisations locales. Nous reconnaissons que le contexte est différent dans le Nord de la France et nous avons réfléchi à l’espace que nous occupons présentement et à comment nous pourrions créer de l’espace pour d’autres organisations.

En août 2019, le bail actuel pour l’entrepôt partagé se termine. Help Refugees ne cherchera pas à s’établir dans un autre espace partagé. Nous chercherons à transférer certains des rôles que nous tenons dans l’espace actuel, tel que la distribution des produits non-alimentaires et du bois de chauffage.

Par conséquent, nous avons annoncé le Northern France Fund, un appel à candidatures ouvert pour demandes de subventions pour les organisations qui soutiennent les réfugiés et personnes déplacées à Calais et Dunkerque. Vous pouvez obtenir plus d’information à propos du Northern France Fund, incluant comment appliquer, en cliquant ici.

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Asylum seekers and the NHS: are hostile policies damaging services?

Luna Williams, IAS, writes about the hardships faced by those attempting to claim asylum in the UK.


In 1948, the NHS was founded as an ethical body; a public health service which doesn’t discriminate and offers support for any person no matter what their wealth, class or background. Unfortunately, over the last decade, a combination of budget cuts and hostile immigration policies have caused the NHS to compromise these ethics and forced it into a position in which it must discriminate in order to stay afloat.


According to a report which was released by the Observer earlier this year, at least three-quarters of NHS trusts hired private debt collector firms over the past three years to deal with the debts of destitute asylum-seekers. 8,468 patient debts were referred, according to the report, between the years of 2016 and 2018. Members of the firms were found to use tactics such as intimidating phone calls, doorstep visits and, in some cases, property possession. Despite this, only 7% of the unpaid debts were recovered, making these tactics not only unethical, but also unnecessary. This behaviour was despite guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Social Care, stating that NHS trusts are allowed to write off unpaid patient debts if it is “clear that a person is destitute or genuinely without funds”.


This is yet another sign of a UK service-provider being confused by hostile policies. A report by the Joint Committee for Welfare for Immigrants (JCWI) found that after the introduction of the Right to Rent Scheme – which encouraged landlords to discriminate against those who might be ‘illegal’ immigrants – caused a huge spike in discriminatory decision-making. According to the report, 43% of landlords said they would be less likely to rent to a tenant who didn’t have British citizenship, while a shocking 27% said they would be less willing to negotiate with anyone who had a “foreign-sounding” name or accent.


The Right to Rent Scheme was introduced alongside many other Government procedures which encouraged service-providers to act as border control officers, as part of the larger “hostile environment policy”. This policy was introduced initially to make the UK as unwelcoming as possible for ‘illegal’ immigrants, in the hope that they may “voluntarily leave”. As is seen in the case of the Right to Rent Scheme, many elements of the policy ultimately resulted in mass-discrimination, which affected the lives of genuine asylum-seekers, refugees and settled migrants across the UK. The policy was ultimately ended after the Windrush scandal – which saw hundreds of settled Windrush citizens and their families harassed and deported after their paperwork had been lost by the Home Office – but still seems to be continuing to impact and confuse the decisions made by various service-providers, employers and individuals in the UK today.


As in the case of many landlords, the blame cannot be placed on the NHS itself for such issues. The NHS has received various budget cuts over the last decade and is struggling to stay afloat: according to the Institute For Fiscal Studies (IFS), the public health sector’s budget has been cut by 40% over the last eight years. As a result of these cuts, NHS trusts are evidently having to compromise their ethics in order to make ends meet.


Nonetheless, doctors have come forward to argue that discriminative procedures aimed at asylum-seekers and vulnerable migrants go against their professional and personal ethics. In one particular case, which took place in January, an Eritrean asylum-seeker was refused urgent cancer treatment by an NHS trust because he was unable to produce the correct paperwork. Doctors claim that circumstances like this force them to compromise their Hippocratic Oath: “to treat the ill to the best of your ability”.


Equally, paediatricians have voiced their feelings on policies which mean they must refuse care to individuals who are unable to produce documents to show they are eligible or pay upfront. With at least 120,000 undocumented migrant children in the UK (many of whom are victims of human trafficking), the refusal of health services causes major barriers in allowing them to reach the correct authorities and ultimately be healthy and safe.


It should not be up to the NHS to make decisions on the welfare and safety of asylum-seekers. Instead, the Government needs to clarify its stance on immigration policies and schemes in order to ensure that the NHS can retain its fundamental ethics of universality.


This article has been written by Luna Williams, political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service; an organisation of immigration lawyers who give free legal advice and support to asylum seekers.

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