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SOAS Detainee Support


If you have questions, want to know more about SDS or Release Carnival, please contact us:

SOAS Detainee Support

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG


If you are an asylum seeker and wish to attend the carnival, we will reimburse your travel costs (cheapest route available). If possible, please email and tell us the approximate price of your ticket.

About SOAS Detainee Support

The SOAS Detainee Support Group emerged out of a campaign run by SOAS students in 2005 with two Ugandan twins, Judith and Maria. The girls came to speak at SOAS at the end of 2005 about their experiences as young asylum seekers, of the immigration system and of detention. For many it was the first time to hear of the shameless human rights abuses being carried out in the UK and it came as a shock. However, as much as people were saddened and angered by the treatment the girls had received, we were inspired by their tremendous courage and sense of hope.

When Judith and Maria were detained for the fourth time, less than a fortnight later, it was a call-to-arms for many of the students who had met them. People from SOAS began to visit the twins in Yarl’s Wood IRC (Immigration Removal Centre) and, with them formed a campaign to stop their ”removal” to Uganda and called for their immediate release.

Ultimately it ws unsuccessful – Judith and Maria were eventually forcibly returned to Uganda. This was a massive blow to everyone who had grown close to them. However, the feeling was very much that the battle had been lost but the war was far from over. During the campaign students from SOAS had had their eyes opened to the reality of immigration detention centres and of forced deportation. At the same time, they had learnt how to deal with lawyers, carry out legal research, lobby politicians, engage with the media and organise demonstrations.

It was widely felt that this would not be in vain, so in September 2006 the SOAS Detainee Support Group was founded as a society at SOAS. Since then, membership has continued to increase and now includes students from other London universities. We work closely with other organisations defending asylum seekers’ and migrants’ rights and are developing links with other student groups in SOAS and other parts of the country.

What we do


Visiting is central to who we are as a group. We visit Yarl’s Wood IRC, located in Bedfordshire, north of London, where single women and families are detained. The nature of support depends on the specific needs, desires and circumstances of the person being visited but can include befriending emotional support, explaining legals rights and how to access them, assisting in finding good legal aid lawyers, contacting independent doctors and supporting people, if they are released back into the community.


We can supply skills, resources and people power, if the people we visit wish to set up their own individual campaigns to either halt a removal or obtain leave to remain in the UK. We also have an ongoing campaign to end the detention of children and families. We want to spread awareness among the general public, and students in particular, of the conditions in which children and families are detained, and which effect it has on them.  In 2009-2010 we have been working on a leaflet, which will be published in spring 2010.

If you have questions or want to get involved, please contact us on

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