• Journey to reporting centre: 5.4 miles
  • Average journey time: 1 hr 15 minutes
  • Cost: £5.30 return

Elodie, a woman in her late forties, is originally from a country in central Africa. As an asylum-seeker she was arrested during her reporting appointment, and was detained at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre for over six months before eventually being released on bail. Her asylum claim is still pending and she has been reporting for over four years.

You are not a criminal, you are an asylum seeker! So if you go to sign, you are going to sign! And if they try to detain you, you have the right to ask them, why you are being detained…

It happened to me, when I went to sign. I was in the process of launching a new fresh claim. They cannot detain you if you have submitted a fresh claim, but mine was still being processed. But I didn’t want to stay home without going to sign, ‘cos I knew that was a reason they use to detain you, if you don’t show up to sign.

So when I went there the immigration officer ask me, “how are you”?. I say “fine”. Through my mind I think, “why is he asking me how I am?”. I just stood there, and then, as I stood and handed him my signing sheet, I turned behind me and there were two officers standing right up close behind me. I said “Why are you standing?”, like I feel the heat. They told me I am under arrest.

With the little knowledge I had, I said “why am I under arrest?” They told me “follow us”. I said “No you need to tell me.” Because I knew, I was not being extraordinary, I was just asking “why?”

I followed them to one room and in that room there were already other people there waiting to be taken to detention… When I went there, the Border guard lady asked me to take off my belt. I took off my belt, she searched me, and the immigration officer told me to stand as they wanted to take a picture of me. I told him “Sir, I need to call my solicitor, because what you are doing now, my solicitor doesn’t have a clue, I came here to sign”.

Then he said “we’ll tell you after, you just need to go and stand and have a picture taken”.

So I stood there and he took my picture. I asked for my phone and they said they’re going to bring it. While they were bringing the phone, the chief immigration officer, he called me in another room with a file of papers. I went there, and he was asking me my name, my date of birth, what am I allergic to, what kind of food this this this, that that that, I told him.

Then I told him “Sir, I’m breathing fast.” He ignored me, he didn’t answer. Then I said “Sir, I’m not feeling okay, I’m breathing fast.” I started breathing very heavily. He ignored me, and then I fell like this, I blacked out.

You see, I have been to Yarl’s Wood before, that’s where they wanted to take me…. I was thinking it is better for me to die, than to go back to that place.

“Sir, I’m not feeling okay, I’m breathing fast”

As an additional function of reporting is for the Home Office to target potential deportees, any time a person attends, they face possible arrest and detainment by Border Enforcement officers. While factors including failing to submit fresh evidence on your asylum claim, or failing to attend a reporting appointment are grounds for detainment, detainments can often appear to occur at random. Immigration barrister Colin Yeo substantiates that detainments do occur randomly, stating ‘whether a particular migrant is detained and removed is a matter of luck… [for] any decision to detain is inherently arbitrary’ because often migrants of any given nationality are often ‘rounded up solely because of their nationality for group removals on chartered flights’, with around 2000 people expelled in this manner every year.

Individuals can sometimes sense when they may be detained at the reporting centre, for instance, Elodie shared: ‘When they start changing your time, be very careful, when they start putting you to every one week, two weeks’. While increasing the frequency that individual must report may not always be based on an actual decision to detain at the reporting centre, the fear it induced in people was immense.

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