For Annette Groth, national parliamentarian in Germany and a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons of the Council of Europe, it is a duty to work for urgently needed change with regard to immigration detention in Europe. Over the years, she has visited countless centres for migrants.
"Immigration is a big political issue in Europe, but most parliamentarians have never been inside a detention centre. It’s therefore very important to encourage parliamentarians to visit these centres. Only then will they know what the reality looks like, the inhuman conditions in many places."
Annette Groth believes that the joint APT-Council of Europe project to encourage and guide parliamentarians to visit immigration detention centres has contributed to raise awareness of the importance of conducting visits.
"It was a very good initiative. The material is especially useful for new parliamentarians and should be widely disseminated."
In October 2013, Annette Groth and nine other members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) from different countries visited the deportation section of the prison at the Zürich-Kloten airport, under the guidance of the Swiss National Preventive Mechanism and the APT. The visit was an opportunity for parliamentarians to meet and talk to detainees as well as to management and other staff at the prison, including medical personnel.
"I was curious to know more about how the Swiss handled this, if it’s different from what we do in Germany. I think that all MPs should visit, not just centres in their own countries but where the migrants arrive, in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy. As parliamentarians we have the power to change things. Who else could bring such change?"
The next step, she stresses, must be follow up and continued awareness raising at the national level – why not in cooperation with the German National Preventive Mechanism!