Category: David Cameron

ECDN addresses the Medsin Annual Conference at Warwick University

End Child Detention Now ran a well-attended workshop at the Medsin 2012 Conference at Warwick University on Saturday 20 October. Esme Madill from ECDN talked about the physical and mental harm experienced by children in immigration detention, and explained that although fewer children were being detained than under the previous government, the number of children held in ‘pre-departure accommodation’ at Cedars and the existing immigration detention centre Tinsley House near Gatwick was continuing to increase. Even a few days previously, a disturbing dawn raid had been carried out by the UK Border Agency on the Saleh family on their home in Wales. The family has since been taken to Cedars where they are being held against their will pending enforced removal to Egypt where the mother fled domestic violence five years ago.

 

Student participants contributed dozens of handprints calling on Nick Clegg and David Cameron to honour their broken promise to end child detention in the UK and signed ‘Keep Your Promise’ postcards which will be posted to No 10 Downing Street. Until the brutal and inhumane treatment that families like the Salehs faced is ended for good, the campaign to end child detention will continue.

Keep Your Promise on Child Detention Campaign launches in York

Supporters of York-based End Child Detention Now launched their ‘Keep Your Promise’ postcard writing campaign on Saturday 5 February with help from local children who are urging David Cameron and Nick Clegg to honour their pledge to end the detention of children without delay.

The group’s spokesperson Esme Madill explained that

Children have continued to be detained as recently as Christmas Day despite Nick Clegg’s promise that no child would spend Christmas in an immigration detention centre. We are worried that plans for a ‘pre detention facilility’ near Gatwick will merely be a re-branding exercise and that children who are to be forcibly removed from their schools and communities will continue to suffer as a result.

The hotel group Arora International is thought to have acquired a residential school previously used for children with behavioural and learning difficulties, which they intend to convert into a secure detention facility complete with a perimeter fence.

Dr Simon Parker, a coordinator of End Child Detention Now commented,

We have real concerns about the lack of staff with appropriate child care and safeguarding qualifications both at Tinsley House and this new proposed facility at Pease Pottage near Crawley. Security companies and hotel groups cannot be considered fit and proper bodies for the safeguarding of vulnerable children. The UK Border Agency, which failed to tell the Deputy Prime Minister it had broken his pledge by detaining a child over Christmas cannot be trusted with the well-being of children, and the task must now be urgently passed to an independent professional body that has the confidence of child care professionals.

Keep Your Promise Campaign Launches

At a Conference in Birmingham today (Saturday 22 January), delegates from the Baptist Union, Methodist and United Reformed Churches will be asked to send postcards to Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urging the coalition government to keep its promise on ending child detention.

The postcards were designed by the young people from Shpresa Programme, an Albanian Refugee Community Organisation in East London that has worked with ECDN to draw attention to the plight of children and young people in immigration detention.  The Keep Your Promise campaign is a result of Shpresa young people expressing their concern that while the government has promised to bring an end to child detention, children will continue to be detained at Tinsley House, near Gatwick, at least until May 2011.

The Baptist Union, Methodist Church and United Reformed Church together with ECDN believe that the current alternatives to detention proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister fall a long way short of the commitment that he gave in May 2010.  While welcoming the closure of the family detention facility at Yarl’s Wood, we are particularly concerned that children may continue to be detained with their parents prior to removal at a facility that has been condemned by several reports from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Esme Madill, campaign coordinator for End Child Detention Now said:

‘The Keep Your Promise campaign is a reminder that the coalition government continues to detain children and families despite Nick Clegg rightly describing the practice as a “moral outrage”. We are also concerned that the alternative system proposed for dealing with the removal of refused asylum seekers still allows for the arrest and detention of children and families at Tinsley House near Gatwick. We call upon the government to keep its promise by passing legislation to ban the practice of detaining families prior to removal and to transfer the consideration of asylum claims away from the UK Borders Agency to an expert independent body whose decisions will not be linked to arbitrarily imposed removal targets.’

Rosemary Kidd of the Baptist Union of Great Britain said:

‘Churches, along with other faith groups, students and community organisations, have been campaigning to end the detention of children for immigration purposes for a long time.  We hope that many people across the country will join in organising postcard writing events around the theme of Keep Your Promise to end
child detention now.’

If you or your organisation would like to send Keep Your Promise postcards please send an email to info@ecdn.org indicating the quantity your require (in multiples of 50) and we will let you know the value of the postage stamps you need to send and the address to send your request.

An end to child detention?: how a High Court judgement brings us closer

Simon Parker

This article originally appeared in openDemocracy, 13 January 2011.

In the High Court on Tuesday, Mr Justice Wyn Williams might have driven the last nail into the coffin of Britain’s infamous and long-running child immigration detention policy. The detaining of children for immigration purposes has been denounced as a ‘scandal’ and a ‘moral outrage’ by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, yet the current Home Secretary has spared no expense in expertly and robustly defending the policy.

The action was brought at the end of last year by Public Interest Lawyers on behalf of a Malaysian family of three and a Nigerian mother and her baby. Liberty and Bail for Immigration Detainees supported the action (Suppiah and Others vs SSHD and Others). In a judgment that noted Nick Clegg’s repeated disavowal of child detention as morally repugnant, the judge found that:

“The Defendant’s current policy relating to detaining families with children is not unlawful. There is, nonetheless, a significant body of evidence which demonstrates that employees of UKBA have failed to apply that policy with the rigour it deserves.”

Specifically, the UK Border Agency were held to have breached the families’ rights to liberty, privacy and family life (their Article 5 and Article 8 rights), though not Article 3, which relates to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Home Office does not contest that both families were arrested in the early hours of the morning, were given only a short time to pack, transported in locked and caged vans, and that a very young girl was body searched with her arms outstretched to the obvious distress of her mother.

Reetha Suppiah and her two sons, and Sakinat Bello and her baby, were then locked up at the infamous Yarl’s Wood Detention centre. As with many thousands of families to be sent there, soon after being taken into detention the children became sick and suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting. Reetha’s eldest son continues to suffer from a fear of authority and recalls seeing ‘policemen everywhere’ in detention.

In finding that “the detention of children is not something which should ever be lightly countenanced or allowed to continue except in such circumstances which clearly justify it and which do not reasonably permit of alternatives”, Justice Williams gave a clear and resounding rebuke to the policy of previous home secretaries, immigration ministers and their senior civil servants. Read more

Yarl’s Wood: Learning the lessons

This article is reproduced by kind permission of Public Interest Lawyers

Reetha Suppiah and Sakinat Bello and their young families are typical of the hundreds of recent victims of our immigration detention system.  Over the course of their time in Britain, they have integrated into our society and formed significant ties to it.  After years of fear and violence in their home countries, they were able to live in a comparatively peaceful environment, reporting regularly to the authorities.

Then, one February morning, their homes were raided by teams of UK Border Agency officials.  Danahar, Reetha’s eleven year-old son, assumed that he had done something wrong and that he was being taken away by “policemen” in the dawn raid.  Sakinat’s two year-old daughter, Ewa, was lifted from her bed whilst still asleep and awoke in the arms of a uniformed stranger.  The families were loaded into vans with meshed windows for onward transportation to Yarl’s Wood, a notorious detention centre the Children’s Commissioner has described as “no place for a child”.  Its family wing was finally closed last month, but children are still detained at a centre near Gatwick Airport.

Reetha and her boys spent 17 days in detention.  Sakinat and Ewa were released after 12 days, despite the fact that nine days earlier Ewa had been declared “unfit to fly” by a doctor.  All the children became sick almost immediately upon arrival.

The Court was presented with little evidence of child and family welfare having been taken into account at any stage prior to detaining the families.  The detentions were thus unlawful “for their entire duration.”  At no time did anyone ask the most basic question: “Is detention necessary?”.  On the facts of this case, the answer could only have been “no”.

The lamentable failures ranged from the depressing (such as a failure to complete the crucial Family Welfare Form) to the ludicrous (the assessment that a 2 year-old child ought to be accorded 90 points out of 100 on a “Harm Matrix” upon being checked in to Yarl’s Wood).  Those failures had to be viewed alongside the compelling evidence presented by Liberty, the human rights group, which detailed the many similar cases in which children are detained unnecessarily.  Detentions lasted an average of 16 days, but periods of 61 days were not uncommon.  Given the expert consensus on the inherently harmful effects that detention has upon children, the reckless, tick-box manner in which the Suppiah and Bello families were consigned to these prison-like conditions is indeed, in the words of Nick Clegg, “a moral outrage”.

The judge made clear that the proper interpretation of the Home Secretary’s power to detain children was that it could only be used in “exceptional circumstances” – circumstances that did not prevail here.   These families’ basic human rights – to liberty, to security of the person, to private, home and family life – were summarily violated.  The Government breached its statutory duties under the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 and its own policy which, on paper, should mean that detention is used only as a last resort.  Mr Justice Wyn Williams adjudged that it would be “premature” to hold that the relatively new policy was incapable of being applied lawfully in practice, or that it gave rise to an unacceptable risk of unlawfulness.  This was due to the existence of certain key elements.  But the application of that policy to Reetha, Emmanuel, Danahar, Sakinat and Ewa was unlawful from start to finish.

The courage shown by these families in the face of the spectre of removal from the UK is remarkable.  The dignified way in which they fought for redress should send a clear signal that asylum seekers may be vulnerable but are not helpless.  They must be treated with the same level of respect accorded to everyone else.

As the Coalition prevaricates in its attempts to end child detention, it must ensure that the interests of the child lie at bedrock of its alternatives.   Jim Duffy, Public Interest Lawyers

Release Carnival protesters pledge to keep pressure on government to end child detention

Children from Shpresa march on Downing Street.

Hundreds turned out in the warm sunshine on Saturday June 5th to hear speakers from Citizens for Sanctuary, Outcry!, Refugee and Migrant Justice, No-One is Illegal, Medical Justice, End Child Detention Now and former detainees urge the government to make good on its pledge to end child detention, to rule out the separation of families and all other inhumane alternatives and to treat asylum seekers with the respect and dignity they deserve.

The event was brilliantly organised by the SOAS Detainees Support Group and featured a wonderful dance performance and poetry recital by the children of Shpresa – an Albanian speaking refugee community organisation based in London, face painting, hand print making, a samba band and an amazing human dragon which led the carnival on a march through central London to Downing Street. At No10, Phil from SOAS DSG, Millie and Pamela and 11 year old May Beth handed letters addressed to David Cameron, along with hand prints and a petition calling on the government to release all families and children from detention immediately.

Photo credits: Juliane Heider and Simon Parker.

Let’s make sure they really do end child detention now

If they mean the immediate closure of Yarl’s Wood, that should be a cause for great rejoicing. This is why we must hold them to it

By Clare Sambrook (from OpenDemocracy, 12 May 2010).

‘We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes,’ says today’s coalition agreement. A stunning victory for children, decency and the Liberal Democrats if this pledge proves good. That may be a very big if.

Days before the election David Cameron offered to set up a ‘working party’ including charities to ‘review child detention’. What’s to review? NHS paediatricians and psychologists Lorek et al six months ago found that children at Yarl’s Wood were ‘clearly vulnerable, marginalized, and at risk of mental and physical harm as a result of state sanctioned neglect (inadequate care and protection), and possibly abuse in the sense of exposure to violence within the detention facilities themselves.’ The Children’s Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley Green, himself an eminent paediatrician working from irresistible evidence of harm, called repeatedly on the Labour government over years to stop detaining children.

To borrow Australian psychiatrist Professor Patrick McGorry’s description of his own country’s detention centres, ours too are ‘factories for producing mental illness’.

‘We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.’ They better had. And quickly too. Arrest and detention causes children swift and lasting damaging, rendering them confused, fearful, unable to sleep, according to Lorek et al. Children suffer headaches, tummy pains and weight loss and exhibit severe emotional and behavioural problems.

Dr Frank Arnold, a torture scars expert who cares for detainees said today, ‘If for any reason the government delays or reneges on this promise I would like to invite the immigration minister to join me in examining a willing family in detention for them to learn first hand the harm that continuing detention is doing to people.’

Delay or prevarication over this policy which has no proper purpose — a UK Border Agency executive let slip last year that the Agency knows families don’t abscond but persists in detaining them anyway because it’s a deterrent — will invite rising pressure on the government and on the corporations that profit from this shameful business.

Yesterday Dr Arnold put a question to Chris Hyman the Pentecostal Christian who races Formula 3 Ferraris and trousers £4,325 every day running Serco, the security giant that runs Yarl’s Wood detention centre for profit.

At the company’s annual meeting at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Dr Arnold said:

‘Serco is expanding its activities in Healthcare to include NHS hospital management, polyclinics and GP services. At the same time, the company is receiving serious criticism and reputational harm because of its role in the incarceration of children at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre under contract to the UK Border Agency. As the Chief Inspector of Prisons and Children’s Champion have publicly insisted, it is not possible to lock up children (who have done no wrong) without harming them. Will the board agree to take legal steps to obtain release from its contracts with UK BA over administrative detention to improve the company’s reputation?’

Hyman, who chairs the Prince of Wales’s charity In Kind Direct, said Serco had made improvements not required by its government contract, including a new school building at Yarl’s Wood — called Hummingbird House — and cooking facilities where families may prepare ‘culturally appropriate meals’. Hyman invited Arnold to see for himself.

Arnold, a regular visitor to detention centres, said:

‘Many of these children suffer neglect of serious medical conditions, both physical and psychological which are frequently made worse by their imprisonment. Examples include children detained while in sickle crisis, continuing detention in ignorance of a vital central venous feeding line in place, failure to provide immunisation and malaria prophylaxis when due, weight loss, behavioural regression, onset or deterioration of pre-existing PTSD and depression, and suicidal behaviour. All of these failures of care have been documented by clinical experts and in parliament and the media.’

Arnold went on:

‘Serco are contracted to manage people in detention but also, through Serco healthcare, to certify them as fit for detention. This is an insoluble conflict of interest and must cease. However prettily you paint the walls, these children are still imprisoned, dealing with the traumas of dawn raids and being locked up. The administrative detention of children is simply too harmful to be accepted in a civilised society.’

If the immediate closure of Yarl’s Wood is what is meant by, ‘We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes,’ then that is cause for rejoicing and huge thanks to Nick Clegg. But not yet. We must hold them to it.

New Cameron Government Agrees to End Child Detention

In the early hours of this morning, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister issued a statement in which as part of a Tory commitment to put a cap on immigration it was agreed to put an end to child detention immigration controls (the latter was a Lib Dem proposal).

End Child Detention Now believes that this important shift in policy has been won thanks to the amazing efforts of campaigners from several organisations and with the help of prominent writers, actors, doctors, refugee community groups, faith groups and parliamentarians from all parties who have kept up relentless pressure in the media and in local communities across the country.

However, this announcement is only the beginning of the final phase of our campaign. We must keep the pressure on the new government to end child detention now, and not just accept a commitment to ‘phase it out’ or or to retain it ‘only for the shortest possible time’.

The UKBA, Serco and G4S will be trying to keep the detention industry profitably arresting and imprisoning asylum-seeking families-so we need to hold Nick Clegg and David Cameron to their pledge and ensure that any sabotage operation fails.

Everyone who can get to London on Saturday June 5th is encouraged to take part in the Release Carnival which is gathering in Torrington Square at 12.00 and then converging on Downing Street with clowns, dancers, street performers and lots and lots of people!

Lets hold them to their pledge – shut down the immigration jails – END CHILD DETENTION NOW!

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