RESIDENTS are being invited to join a group supporting detained immigrants ahead of a new centre opening on Portland.

People will be able to find out more at a public meeting which will be discussing the ‘realities of immigration detention’.

The former Verne prison is due to reopen this month as an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) after an extensive refurbishment.

It will house up to 580 men over the age of 18 who have been detained by the Home Office under immigration law.

The Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID) is hosting an ‘awareness raising event’ in Weymouth on Thursday, February 27 to discuss the opening of what it says will be the UK’s second largest detention centre.

AVID will be joined by a panel of speakers from Detention Action and Morton Hall Detainee Visitors Group, as well as a speaker with personal experience of detention, to discuss indefinite detention, and how people in Dorset can get involved in supporting detainees.

The use of immigration detention in the UK is growing.

At any one time, there are around 5,000 people in immigration detention across the UK.

The newest detention centre at The Verne will hold detainees, without time limit, for administrative purposes.

AVID’s director Ali McGinley said: “We hope the event will be a valuable opportunity for people to come along and find out more about the realities of immigration detention in the UK, what life will be like for those held at the Verne, and how they can help by getting involved in setting up a local visitors group to support them.”

She added: “People being held in detention often feel vulnerable and isolated. Some will have only recently arrived in the country, may not have any friends or family in the UK, and may speak little or no English. Others may have lived here for many years.

“Whatever their circumstances, the experience of being held in detention can be traumatic.”

The public meeting ‘Indefinite Detention: IRC The Verne’ will be held at St John’s Church, Greenhill, Weymouth on Thursday, February 27 at 6.45pm.

All are welcome.

For more information email

  • THE Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID) is the national network for volunteers and groups visiting those detained under immigration powers in the UK, and works with its member visitor groups across the country to promote the welfare and human dignity of detainees.

Volunteer visitors play a vital role in befriending and supporting detainees at an extremely difficult time in their lives, says AVID.

Currently, more than 600 people across the UK volunteer each week to visit people detained in IRCs, short-term holding facilities and prisons, providing emotional and practical support to people who often have few others to turn to.