Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve all had to rethink how we work. At Detention Action, many of our amazing volunteers have continued to support people remotely from around the world. They help people with their cases to try and ensure their release, and making social calls to help people feel less alone. Every day this week, they’ll be telling you about their experiences of being part of Detention Action’s new global community.

Leila, Remote Advocacy and Support Volunteer, Switzerland

Where I am…

I’m quarantined with my dad in a small French town near Geneva, close to the border with Switzerland. We live in a building in the middle of a beautiful park, and have been going on daily runs together to try to stay sane.

What I usually do…

I’m an Advocacy and Support Volunteer. I provide over the phone support to Detention Action’s clients. Usually I would be based in Detention Action’s office in London.

What I’m doing now…

My work supporting DA’s clients continues remotely.

Many of the clients I’ve spoken to have been curious or concerned about how I’ve been coping, and what life during Coronavirus has been like for me. This crisis affects all of us, although absolutely not equally. But it is something we can all relate to. My life is so drastically different to that of someone locked up in an immigration detention centre, but I’ve found we’ve had more humane and compassionate conversations.

The experience has also highlighted more than ever the very basic freedoms people in immigration detention are deprived of. The people I speak to often can’t control how often they’re able to wash their hands, or whether they can stay two meters away from others. For me, this has really highlighted the need to spread awareness of the conditions in detention centres.

Supporting people in detention always leaves us feeling somewhat helpless because the system is so unjust, and this has only been more pronounced since the Coronavirus outbreak. It’s more difficult than ever to support people as services ranging from social visits to legal surgeries have been reduced or even stopped completely.

Despite all this, I have enjoyed staying in touch with the team and with our clients. My contact with clients and Detention Action staff has made quarantine less isolating. Most importantly, in a situation where the most vulnerable are paradoxically the hardest people to reach, volunteering remotely has
allowed me to keep being useful to those in desperate need.