Overview
What we do
Who we are
Members
Members Charter
History
AVID is a national network of visitor groups to immigration detention. We work with locally owned initiatives to end the human suffering caused by detention.

We exist to enable and support the vital role of visitors to people detained whilst providing a platform for collective action amongst UK visitor groups. We have a strong track record of providing essential practical and emotional support for visitor groups; influencing detention policy and practice and of raising awareness of the human impact of detention.

Address
27-31 Carlton Road, Nottingham, NG3 2DG (postal address only)
Contact
0207 281 0533
enquiries@aviddetention.org.uk
Follow
By clicking Sign Up you're confirming that you agree with our Terms and Conditions.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Our Mission

Our mission is to join with and support communities to reduce the immediate suffering of people in immigration detention and work towards a future without detention. We achieve this by facilitating a network which provides solidarity, guidance and advocacy to visitor groups across the UK, whilst also building connections with the wider movement. Together we strive for a more just and compassionate society that upholds the dignity and human rights of all people.

“One of the underlying things I love about the network is just the sense of solidarity among the group, and the generosity of sharing. And the rapidity of sharing! I found that really nourishing and helps you keep going because you think there are so many people out there with such incredible experience and knowledge, and so ready to share it.”

AVID member

Supporting our members

AVIDs membership network comprises of visitors groups and organisations who visit across the UK, as well as many individual members, who give their time to befriend and support people being held in immigration detention.

AVID provides training, information, advocacy support and resources to help visitor groups conduct their vital work.

Supporting Visitors Groups to increase their reach and capacity

The support that we provide to our members is underpinned by a relationship-centred approach. We build close working relationships with and amongst our members to reinforce the relationships at the heart of visiting. This is alongside a programme of:

Training

AVID develops and delivers a range of training for visitors on topical issues in detention, equipping them with the skills to support people in detention and to deal with the challenging situations they may encounter whilst visiting.

We deliver our own training, as well as working with expert partner organisations on our training programmes.

AVID's Core Training with JRSUK Detention Outreach Team, 2018

Advice and Support

We provide ongoing support, advice and information to both established visitors groups and those in the process of setting up and running new groups. Visitors groups contact us regularly and we meet every month via our Member Calls. We also make regular outreach visits and support groups to work together to share experiences and address common issues and challenges.

“AVID was really helpful to our group in setting up our new drop-in service for detainees...their involvement was crucial to the service finally being agreed with the detention centre.”

Scottish Detainee Visitors, Glasgow

Information sharing and networking

We work to bring groups together to share ideas and information, network and work collaboratively on detention issues. This includes a range of events such as our annual Coordinators Conference, thematic deep dives and educational talks. This is underpinned by our Members Charter, the values which guide us and keep us connected to our longer term vision - a future without detention.

Advocacy & policy

AVID confronts the brutal injustice of immigration detention, exposing its inhumanity. Our advocacy fights for radical change, demanding justice for those currently detained and previously detained lived experiences.

Artwork donated to AVID from Oakington Visitors Groups

We provide oversight of and collective voices on immigration detention to inform and influence.

AVID's advocacy work is based on the lived experiences of people who have been detained. There is a volunteer visitor group at every single detention facility in the UK. Each week, volunteers visit these otherwise inaccessible facilities and hear firsthand about the conditions and treatment of those held inside.

AVID works to research, collate and produce evidence and information on the realities of detention, and to use this as a tool for positive change.  

Working with and through our member visitor groups we are able to present a national picture and strive to ensure that this evidence reaches decision makers and the public, working to improve the situation for every person in detention.

AVID regularly attends Home Office stakeholder meetings on behalf of the network of visitor groups. We also work to engage with statutory monitoring bodies like Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) and Council for Europe on Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment (CPT). We are regularly consulted about detention conditions nationally and work to present this in a range of policy spheres, including with international human rights mechanisms.

"We would not be where we are today without the long term and detailed work AVID has done on our behalf. We have always felt our work is valued by them and it has enabled us to feed into national conversations and advocacy, and to have the confidence to do our work effectively and in partnership with other organisations."
Midlands Migrant Support, 2020

Our Policy Goals for 2024/25

For far too long people with direct experience of immigration detention have been left out of the conversation and policy work. Led by our Co-Director of Policy and Influencing who also has lived immigration detention experience, our policy work amplifies collective struggles, ensuring that those directly affected drive the conversation.

  • Alleviate immediate suffering: Our commitment extends to collaborating with partners and members to systematically alleviate the acute impact of detention. We will document and monitor mistreatment and conditions in detention as identified by groups in our network. We will produce briefing papers, consultation responses and reports on key issues of concern to  prevent immediate harm.
  • Dismantling detention expansion: We will confront the alarming surge in immigration detention without  just cause . We want to see lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and detention expansion stopped. We will use our strength which is our ability to engage with local communities and act as a bridge to the wider movement to foster lasting change.
  • Breaking chains & building communities of resistance:  Our commitment extends to amplifying voices historically sidelined, placing those with direct experience at the forefront of our policy agenda. Beyond dismantling, our vision embraces the creation of resilient communities in the UK which can welcome migration.

We are also a member of the Detention Forum, a national network of NGOs working to challenge the use of detention in the UK and advocate for community-based alternatives.

To find out more about our policy work or to raise an issue, contact gee.manoharan@aviddetention.org.uk.

Our Strategy

You can find our two-pager, which sets out our strategic goals for 2023-28, below. At the time of setting our strategy, we are facing a period of significant change.

It follows the COVID-19 pandemic during which numbers in immigration detention reached their lowest in recent history as high numbers of people were released. During the period, there was hope from the sector that this might be the final impetus needed to move away from the use of detention and towards community-based alternatives.

However, this has not been the case.

Years of hostile environment policies have led to a broken immigration system with an increasing population of people who are unable to regularise their immigration status. COVID-19 and diminishing safe and regular routes to come to the UK has resulted in more people crossing the channel to claim asylum. At the same time, the UK government has responded with a series of increasingly punitive measures following the Nationality and Borders Act (2022), Illegal Migration Act (2023) and The Safety of the Rwanda Act (2024) coming into law which threaten to expand immigration detention to unprecedented levels.

In this current moment, we will build on our existing strengths as well as develop new ways of working. Specifically, we plan to strengthen infrastructure support for visitor groups; consolidate our position of oversight and collective voice on immigration detention; shift power to people with lived experience of detention to influence our network and government decisions; mobilise local communities and increase cross-movement collaboration.

Who we are


We have four paid staff members and six trustees in our organisation. Our trustees are responsible for agreeing on the overall strategy and direction of the organisation.

Team

Aminata Kalokoh, Member Development Co-ordinator

Aminata is currently on maternity leave. Aminata is the Member Development Co-ordinator at AVID with a responsibility for supporting groups who are new to, or in the process of establishing, visiting support to places of detention. Over the years, Aminata has dedicated her time to various research and community-based initiatives in the fight against social injustices. As someone with a critical mindset, enriched by her lived experiences of detention in Yarl's wood IRC, she has been active in advocating against the use detention.

Fiona Ranford, Network Development Officer

Fiona is Network Development Officer at AVID, with responsibility for supporting and strengthening our network of visitor groups to immigration detention across the UK. Fiona joined AVID in September 2020. She has worked as a trainer and educator within social movements and voluntary organisations for over 10 years supporting people to advocate and organise for social justice from the global to the local level, from struggles against environmental injustice to housing rights and religious discrimination.

Gee Manoharan, Co-Director

Gee is the Co-Director for Policy and Influencing, jointly leading and working with the team to set and meet AVID’s strategic aims. Gee is responsible for influencing policy reforms, making the human case for ending detention, galvanising public awareness, and amplifying the transformative work of AVID's network. Gee has a strong background in voluntary sector development and community-based approaches, gained both in Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland. Having experienced the harsh realities of detention firsthand, Gee emerged as a survivor with an unwavering determination to make a difference.

Miranda Reilly, Co-Director

Miranda Reilly is the Co-Director for Membership and Operations, jointly leading and working with the team to set and meet AVID’s strategic aims. Miranda joined AVID in April 2022 and is responsible for ensuring it’s financial and organisational capacity to build communities in solidarity with people who have been detained. Miranda has more than ten years’ experience of working in the charity sector with a focus on local organisations tackling systemic inequalities.

Trustees

Anne Hudson, Treasurer

Anne is Treasurer of AVIDs Trustee Board. Anne has worked in charity organisations and management for over thirty years, particularly in the legal and advice sector. Anne’s time in charities has given her a passionate belief in social justice and she feels that working with AVID will enable the organisation to provide more support to those who need it in a difficult political climate.

Carolina Albuerne, Chair

Carolina is Chair of AVID's Trustee Board and has been a trustee of AVID since 2011. Caro is an expert practitioner and consultant in the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable migrants. She has over seventeen years of frontline experience in the refugee and migrant field. She has worked for the Refugee Council, Freedom from Torture, Solace (Surviving Exile and Persecution) and the Poppy Project amongst others. She currently works at Asylos as Co-Director. ‍

Adam Spray

Adam Spray is Secretary on AVIDs Board of Trustees. Adam is an Associate Solicitor with Wilsons Solicitors in their immigration department. Adam specialises in all aspects of immigration law with a particular interest in personal immigration and asylum. Adam has extensive voluntary experience having given time to the charities Micro-Rainbow, Body and Soul and The South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre. He previously worked as the legal manager for Bail for Immigration Detention (BID).

Harbi Jama

Harbi joined the AVID Board of Trustees in November 2022. Harbi is the Head of Development at The London Community Foundation. Harbi joined us to bring his fundraising expertise to the board, and his lived experience as his family came to the UK as refugees from Somalia. Harbi has also worked in the refugee sector, working for charities like Refugee Action, leading the development and strategic planning of their corporate income and partnerships.

Hannah Cooper

Hannah joined the AVID Board of Trustees in June 2023. She has worked for the past decade in policy, advocacy and research roles where she has focused on strategically influencing policies at national, regional and global levels so that they work better for people on the move and people caught up in humanitarian crises. This has included positions with Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and Refugee Action.

Basma El Doukhi

Basma El Doukhi is a Palestinian human rights activist, Global Challenges Doctoral Scholar in Migration studies and an associate lecturer at the University of Kent. Basma has a master's in Development and Emergency Practice at Oxford Brookes University. She has been active in humanitarian and development work with displaced people for the past fourteen years. She is dedicated and passionate about refugee protection, humanitarian action, advocacy, campaigning, and community outreach and development.

Visitor Groups


We have thirteen member organisations in our network who visit people in immigration detention.  

Durham Visitors Group

Durham Visitors Group was established in 2021 to visit people held Derwentside IRC, the new detention centre for women in County Durham which opened amidst strong resistance. Visitors come from County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle and beyond, offering emotional and practical support to women held in the centre. Durham Visitors Group is co-ordinated by a group of volunteers and works closely with other groups and organisations in the North East of England.

Waging Peace

Established in 2012, Waging Peace undertake a range of activities in support of its mission to support Sudanese asylum-seekers, refugees, and the wider community to build meaningful lives in the UK. Waging Peace visits and supports Sudanese nationals being held in detention centres and prisons across the UK. Waging Peace is a human rights organisation which campaigns against genocide and human rights violations in Sudan.

Midlands Migrant Support - formerly known as Morton Hall Visitors Group (MHVG)

Set up in Nottingham in 2011 Midlands Migrant Support provide friendship and practical advice to people detained in Swinderby RSTHF, Lincolnshire and HMP Morton Hall. Their volunteers offer practical information and signposting to a range of specialist services.

Lewes Organisation in Support of Refugees & Asylum Seekers (LOSRAS)

Lewes Prison Visiting Group is part of Lewes Organisation in Support of Refugees & Asylum Seekers (LOSRAS). They are a volunteer-run group and have been visiting people being detained post-sentence under immigration powers at HMP Lewes since 2004. The group also works locally to promote awareness of issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers.

Asylum Welcome

Asylum Welcome provide information, advice and support to people in immigration detention, refugees and asylum seekers in Oxford and across Oxfordshire. Their team and volunteers visit and provide practical support to people being held under immigration powers at HMP Huntercombe.

Beyond Detention

Set up in 2001, Beyond Detention visits and supports people detained at Yarl’s Wood IRC in Bedfordshire and continues to support people on their release with a wide range of activities. They run drop-in sessions on Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday mornings and Thursday mornings. They visit men detained in Yarl's Wood on Tuesdays and Thursdays and visit women on Wednesdays. They also provide ongoing practical support such as clothing, mobile top up and devices.

Solidarity Detainee Support (SDS)

Solidarity Detainee Support (formerly known as the SOAS Detainee Support Group) visit people being held at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook IRCs near Heathrow, London, and Yarl’s Wood IRC in Bedfordshire. They also visit some prisons to provide support for those detained under the Immigration Act of Powers. SDS was founded in 2006 as a society at SOAS, and decided to change its name in 2024 after reflecting on their work and changing membership. Read more about their name change here. You can also find other links and up to date resources from their linktree: https://linktr.ee/sds_noborders_noprisons

Jesuit Refugee Service UK (JRS)

Part of the international Jesuit Refugee Service, JRS UK runs a detention outreach programme to people being detained at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres, near Heathrow Airport, London. Their casework team and volunteers visit people detained on a weekly basis, on Thursdays, as well as writing letters and providing a range of support to people on release from detention.

Scottish Detainee Visitors (SDV)

Set up in 2002, SDV befriend and support people being held at Dungavel IRC near Strathaven, South Lanarkshire. Based in Glasgow, SDV visits people detained on a regular basis and run a drop-in support service at the centre on the first and third Wednesday of every month. They also work with a wider network of organiations in Scotland and the UK supporting asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants to ensure people in detention are treated fairly, and to advocate for change in immigration detention.

Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG)

GDWG was set up in 1995 and their staff and volunteer teams visit, provide casework support and advocacy to people detained held at Tinsley House and Brook House IRCs near Gatwick Airport. GDWG give talks in schools in the local area to raise awareness of our work and detention issues. Refugee Tales is an outreach project calling for an end to indefinite detention and who run ‘Walk with Us’ for people who have experienced detention to join walks on release.

Manchester Immigration Detainee Support Team (MIDST)

MIDST is a volunteer-run group and visits and supports men and women being detained at RSTHF 302, a short-term holding facility at Manchester Airport.

The group also visits and supports men being held post-sentence under immigration control at HMP Risley.

Detention Action

Detention Action visits and provides casework support to people being detained in Harmondsworth and Colnbrook IRCs, near Heathrow Airport, as well as providing welfare support workshops in several London prisons. They also have a helpline and can provide remote support to people held under immigration powers in prisons. Detention Action campaign for a just immigration system and run networks for people with lived experience of detention to spearhead change.

Larne House Visitors Group

Larne House Visitors Group is a volunteer-run group and started visiting people held at Larne House residential short term holding facility(RSTHF) near Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2014. Based in Belfast, the group visits people held at the facility on a weekly basis. They also work closely with the Northern Ireland Law Centre to raise awareness locally about issues around detention, migration and asylum.

We build communities of belonging, hope and resistance in anticipation of the society we want to create.

Reason

We resist the practice of immigration detention which displaces people and prevents them from participating in local communities.

Principle

Visitors groups build relationships between people in detention and those in the community, thereby reconnecting them with wider society. As visitors groups, we collaborate in working towards our shared vision, becoming bigger than the sum of our parts. We value the diversity of our network and the strength that this brings. We seek to connect with the wider movement in the struggle for freedom from detention.

We stand alongside and act in partnership with people in detention.

Reason

While trying to offer help, visitors groups risk adopting paternalistic approaches that reinforce unequal relationships of power. When this happens, we become part of the problem by silencing the people we hope to support.

Principle

We are actively on the side of people we visit, and we work against the culture of disbelief faced by people in detention. We work towards relationships based on trust and mutual respect. We recognise the power imbalance which exists between visitors and people detained. In standing side-by-side with people in detention, we use this power to speak out when people in detention speak out and to hold the system to account. This is not simply because we want to ‘help’, but because we know that until people in detention are free, none of us are free.

Our aspiration is to be led by people who have been impacted by detention.

Reason

We denounce immigration policies which exclude people from participating in local communities. People who have first-hand experience of incarceration and displacement bring expertise that is essential to achieving our vision. In our own organisations and network, not enough has been done to build alliances that truly value and are inclusive of people who have experience of detention.

Principle

We seek to embed the leadership of people impacted by detention in our own network and at all levels of our organisations. We confront and address the barriers to participation and leadership that exist in our groups. We centre the knowledge and expertise of people impacted by detention whilst recognising that we all have a shared responsibility to make our vision a reality.

We defend the human dignity of people in detention.

Reason

Immigration detention is a dehumanising process that disempowers and deprives people of control over their lives. By its very nature, it fails to affirm people’s right to be treated with dignity.

Principle

We meet with people in detention as fellow human beings and refuse to participate in the dehumanising ways that the system operates. We support people in detention in their struggles for justice and challenge the system and its indignities.

We actively seek to redress structural inequalities and racist discourses which feed and are fed by our immigration system.

Reason

Our immigration system is inextricably linked to ideas of race, to racial inequalities, and to Britain’s colonial history. These create mechanisms whereby some people are deemed to be ‘deserving’ while others are ‘undeserving’, leading to exclusion from society. Freedom from detention for all will not be possible without confronting and dismantling these wider systems of racial oppression and discrimination.

Principle

We don’t discriminate on any grounds, including but not limited to religion, nationality, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or age. As a network, we challenge hierarchies in our immigration system that create ideas of who does and doesn’t deserve to belong. We are inclusive of our support to people in immigration detention and do not discriminate on the basis of previous sentences served. We work together to confront oppressive systems and transform them into ones that champion liberation both within our own organisations and for people affected by detention.

We are independent of the government and all those who run and benefit from the practice of immigration detention.

Reason

Holding ourselves apart from the places we visit is vital to avoid compromising our role as visitors in solidarity with people who are detained. It is necessary in order that we can hold the government and companies running detention centres to account.

Principle

We do not participate in the running of the centres we visit and identify ourselves as separate from staff. This allows us to give independent and confidential support to people in detention. Where we build relationships with centre management, we do so to support our efforts to stand in solidarity with those we visit.

We are accountable to people impacted by detention and support one another as a network in our efforts.

Reason

We must also hold each other to account if we are to live our network’s values in practice. The nature of detention, which creates vulnerability, demands strong accountability mechanisms that protect people from harm and do not put them at risk.

Principle

We have a duty of care to those we support and to our visitors. Our groups’ policies and practices enable and empower visitors to carry out their roles safely, respecting their own boundaries and those of people in detention. We work to build processes for collective care, feedback and accountability within our organisations and network.  

History

30 Years, One Mission:
End Immigration Detention.



AVID, the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, was founded in 1994 in response to the increase in numbers of people being held in immigration detention, and the local community reaction to this.  At that time there were around 250 immigration detention spaces. Immigration detention was not well known, or understood. But once people heard that migrants were being held in their communities in prisons, or prison conditions, for administrative reasons, there was no shortage of offers to help in whatever way they could.

It soon became clear that visiting in detention was not easy. People in detention were isolated, anxious about what was going to happen, and the policy and legal environment was difficult to comprehend. Originally formed by visitors at Winchester Prison and Haslar Immigration Removal Centre, AVID was set up to provide support, training and information to these volunteer befrienders, and to help visitors around the country learn from each other. This remains our key aim more than 30 years later.

Over the years AVID has maintained a constant presence in detention. We've set up new groups as the use of detention has grown, trained thousands of volunteers, helped raise awareness of immigration detention, and been a critical voice for change throughout these years. Volunteer visitor groups are now established in every single detention centre, and short term holding facility in the country. We also support visitors groups visiting people detained under immigration powers in a number of prisons. Many thousands of people in detention have been supported during their detention.

Despite mounting criticism and government promises of reform, the use of immigration detention continues to grow.

In reluctantly marking three decades, AVID boldly reaffirms its unwavering commitment: tirelessly working until the cessation of immigration detention in the UK.
Our history echoes a resounding testament to enduring advocacy, unwavering support, and a collective vision for a future without detention.


For as long as detention continues in the UK, we will work to ensure those held are not ignored.

Bearing Witness: the Hidden Stories of Immigration Detention

1970

The first immigration detention centre, Harmondsworth, opens near Heathrow with a capacity of 44 spaces. It is operated by Securico, a private security company.
This followed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 which placed restrictions on entry for commonwealth citizens and created new needs for immigration controls as well as racialised hierarchies of belonging.

1994

AVID is set up in 1994 by individuals concerned by what was then the very early beginnings of the detention system when there were 250 bed spaces.

"I started to visit and became interested in this particular young man... he was very very stressed… I got to know people in the Winchester group and became absolutely convinced of the necessity for visitors to be better informed." Audrey Atter, AVID Founder

2000 - 2009

There is significant Detention expansion with 7 New Detention Centres opening. By 2009, AVID has 18 member groups in its network visiting people detained in prisons, immigration removal centres and holding facilities.

2015

Numbers in detention are at their highest and there are several high court rulings of mistreatment in detention. Following significant pressure from advocacy groups like AVID, the government commissions the Shaw Review to assess the welfare of vulnerable individuals in immigration detention. The review highlights numerous issues, leading to reforms aimed at improving conditions and increasing oversight within detention facilities.

Read our Policy Submissions Here

2024

Urgent calls to Action

Despite successful alternatives to detention pilot schemes and the COVID-19 pandemic which saw a dramatic decrease in numbers of people detained, there has been a u-turn in government policy. Immigration detention grows, raids surge under Rwanda Act, detention centers overcrowd. We urgently advocate. With weakened Adult at Risk policy, vulnerable individuals face heightened risk.

Join us Now!

Make a donation

We need funds to continue our work of building communities of solidarity with people in detention across the UK and advocating for a more humane system in 2024.

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay informed with AVID's newsletter for updates on events, training, funding, campaigns, and ways to help.