I applied to become a member of the Independent Monitoring Board at Oakington Immigration Centre on the 2nd of December 2007.
The two primary questions on the application form asked why I wanted to be a member of the IMB and what skills and abilities I had to offer, my responses to these questions, which were guided by the IMBs published requirements and restricted by the space on the form are below:
Why I would like to join the IMB at Oakington
I would like to join the IMB at Oakington as I live about four miles away from the centre and am aware that while I enjoy my freedom, nearby there are people who are incarcerated by the state. If I am able to help ensure they are being treated fairly and decently through becoming a member of the IMB that is something I would like to do.
I believe I have some skills and abilities (see section J) which would make me a useful member of an IMB.
I feel that I have a duty to involve myself in the way the world around me works. As a taxpayer, citizen and voter I have some degree of responsibility with regard to how the state operates in my name.
I first enquired about joining the IMB in June 2005, shortly after the BBC “Real Story” documentary and the associated media coverage on Oakington, as I wondered then why it took an undercover documentary to uncover problems, it suggested to me the IMB and other oversight mechanisms weren’t working. More recently I have felt the IMB wasn’t working when the IMB’s 2005 report was not made available online by the IMB secretariat until January 2007.
I am aware that the British state can make mistakes, and that there are people who as detainees in an unfamiliar country are less able to fight injustices, mistakes and unfairness than I am.
I am aware that in the UK the wheels of the state can turn very slowly, I would like to find out what is delaying decisions on whether to offer asylum or not. I don’t think that holding people for extended periods in these centres is good for Britain or for the people being held. I think the IMB has a role in lobbying, from its informed position, for improvements to the system which would benefit all involved.
If appointed I would attempt, despite any training, to maintain a viewpoint of an interested, educated and caring member of the public.
I believe the board, particularly with respect to applications, could be more open and accessible, I think the IMB secretariat could support the boards more effectively.
Personal Strengths (Section J)
I believe I have a good sense of justice/fairness, right and wrong and am prepared to speak up when I believe something is not right. I regularly engage with my elected representatives and have challenged a range of organisations including Universities, Cambridgeshire Police, Cambridge City Council and Research Councils where I have seen opportunities for improvement. I am rarely able to dismiss things as “not my problem” and am persistent, for example I have been trying to tackle dangerous mini-moto misuse where I live for some time despite opposition.
Through my work and education I have gained experience of interpreting technical documents and writing, often collaboratively, for a range of audiences. I have conducted teaching and training in a number of jobs this has given me some opportunity to develop relevant listening and communication skills. I have presented project proposals in a variety of settings and this has involved understanding other people’s point of view, finding out what they want and negotiating.
I am a committed supporter of equality of opportunity, democracy and meritocracy and believe these principles can result in a truly diverse society. I do not however support artificially created diversity in institutions and believe positive discrimination can be as bad as negative. I am prepared to defend the basic rights and freedoms to which everyone is entitled, though I am cautious that “human rights” is a term which can encompass too much and assuring some rights for individuals can be detrimental to wider society.
I made a number of further notes in my covering letter which accompanied my application:
- I found the facts that the equal opportunity monitoring form was compulsory, required my name to be included on it, and was to be sent to you [The IMB Chair] (without being directed to enclose it in a sealed envelope) when you have told me you will be on the appointments panel perturbing. I have not included my name on the form, and have enclosed it in a sealed envelope. Both the wording and mechanism of returning the equal opportunities form are I believe out of line with other public service / civil service appointments.
- I have spent more time agonising over if I identify more with the fact that I am Welsh, or the fact my nationality is British than any other question on the form. I have decided that I am not able to answer this question. I refuse to state that I identify more strongly with either the fact that I am Welsh or the fact that my nationality is British. In fact I can’t answer it. I view the question as nonsensical.
- The fact the form is not available electronically is archaic, something I find inexcusable given the size of the IMB secretariat. If this had been an application form for employment there is no way I would have pursued it this far.
- I believe I have integrity, I am concerned this application damages my integrity as I am not convinced the positions on the IMB are openly advertised and the application process is accessible to all, I have asked what the “local recruitment” process involves and have made some efforts to publicise the positions available but do not have capability to do this as effectively as you or the IMB secretariat.
- One concern which I have not found space for on the application form is that I am not sure of my commitment to Oakington as I do not know how long I will remain in the local area. I came to Cambridge in 2001 not expecting to stay for very long, however I am still here. I have no plans to move, but do not know what the future holds. I do have a huge respect for the value of public money and would do my best to ensure that any spent on me though training was not wasted and would seek to join a board elsewhere in the UK if appointed and I did move on.