Despite coalition government pledges that the new ‘pre-departure accommodation’ in the Sussex village of Pease Pottage would be used as a ‘last resort’ and that children would normally be held for less than 72 hours, a Freedom of Information request from the campaign group ‘No-Deportations’ discovered that of the 11 children who entered Cedars pre-departure accommodation in September 2011: 3 children spent 1 day in detention, 2 spent 2 days, 2 spent 4 days, 3 spent 7 days, and the remaining child, having spent 4 days in detention was still detained as at 30 September 2011.
All six children kept imprisoned for more than 72 hours would need to have had their detention personally approved by Immigration Minister, Damian Green, a man who rashly promised that he would dress up as Father Christmas if a single child was kept in detention last Christmas (one child actually was but Green did not don his Santa suit)
Of the 10 children being detained in ‘Cedars’ who left in September 2011, 7 were removed and 3 were granted temporary admission or release. This means that even by the Home Office’s own admission 30% of the children detained should never have been arrested in the first place—despite the fact that every family admitted to Pease Pottage was meant to have been vetted and approved as 100% deserving of removal by the Home Office’s so-called ‘Independent Family Returns Panel’.
The 11 children were in 8 families; including 7 single mothers and 1 mother and father. According to the Home Office, none of the children leaving Cedars in September 2011 were returned to detention again in September 2011 (the latest date for which figures have been published on occurrences of people entering detention), but we do not know if any families held in September were subsequently re-detained in October. Home Office figures for October reveal that 3 of the 7 children held under immigration powers were detained in the high security immigration removal centre Tinsley House. Unless forced to disclose data by the Freedom of Information Act – tellingly the Home Office does not release figures on the length of detention or the number of re-detentions, or those held at ports of entry for less than 24 hours.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the Liberal Democrat conference in September that the coalition government had ended child detention. Anne Marie Carrie, Chief Executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, justified her charity’s involvement in the new family detention centre at Pease Pottage on the grounds that ‘children and families may need to be kept in secure pre-departure accommodation for a very short period of time’.
Given that medical evidence has demonstrated that even short periods of detention can cause significant harm to children—the fact that a leading children’s charity is complicit in detaining nine out of the eleven children held at Pease Pottage for more than 4 days is an absolute disgrace, and vindicates all the warnings that End Child Detention Now and fellow campaign groups have made about the collaboration of charities with the UK Border Agency
Two new reports published last week contain damning criticisms of the immigration services provided by private security company G4S. We are nearing the completion of the new ‘pre-departure accommodation’ facility near Pease Pottage, and the commencement of detention for many more asylum seekers including children and families. In the meantime however, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons last week released reports following unannounced inspections of the short-term holding facilities in Heathrow Airport Terminals 3 and 4, noting several breaches of the regulations designed to minimise the impact of detention on children held there. In addition, the reports identified shortfalls in the standards of training undertaken by staff supplied by G4S, the company contracted by the UK Border Agency to manage the facilities.
According to the HMIP report, some staff were not CRB checked and they displayed inadequate knowledge of the referral process for identifying victims of human trafficking. During the inspection, one child was detained without the necessary authority and held in the room designated for adult detainees.
The five-year-old was subjected to a ‘rub-down search’ and forced to witness his father’s distress as G4S staff confiscated his mobile telephone, having neglected to offer him the free call he was entitled to. If it had not been for the intervention of inspectors, the child would not have been recorded as having been held at the facility, skewing the figures provided by G4S on both numbers and duration of child detentions. This is of course just one case which occurred during the HMIP visit, suggesting that such breaches of policy and inaccuracies in data may be common.
Lengthy detention of children appears to be routine at these holding facilities. During the three month period examined, 176 children had been detained within the two holding rooms, 24 of these had been held for longer than 18 hours. This shows just how genuine the Coalition Government’s commitment to a ‘new compassionate approach to family returns’ is.
You can read Clare Sambrook’s review of the report published by openDemocracy here
And download both the full reports here
The second of last week’s reports came from Amnesty International and focused on the outsourcing of immigration enforcement functions, specifically those subcontracted to G4S. This report is comprehensive and unequivocal in its condemnation of G4S regarding their lack of effective training and policies governing the use of force. It makes a clear and compelling case against the current practices and documents many instances in which G4S personnel have been witnessed causing unnecessary harm. The deportees in the majority of the cases in the report appear to be young, relatively healthy males, although in our experience many of those who undergo enforced removal are women and children, who are often already suffering physical and mental health issues.
Amnesty’s report is a call for reform of the outsourced removals process that should be impossible to ignore. What must not be overlooked is the way in which it highlights the UKBA’s routine exposure of children to immense danger of physical and mental harm.
Since May this year, G4S no longer manage the enforcement of removals and deportations, having been replaced by another private security firm, Reliance Security, but they continue to manage immigration centres and will oversee the detention of families and children when the Pease Pottage ‘pre-departure accommodation’ opens in September. The professional standards witnessed by the authors of both these reports make that an extremely disturbing prospect.
Clare Sambrook’s take on the Amnesty report is available here
While Amnesty’s briefing paper can be accessed here
Disturbing news from Australia reveals that Julia Gillard, the Welsh born Australian Prime Minister, intends to send hundreds of asylum seekers, including many unaccompanied children, to a Tenko-style detention centre in Malaysia complete with watch towers, punishment cages and razor wire.
According to Australia’s Green Left magazine, UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay has denounced the Malaysia deal and called Australia’s policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers “a practice that can, and has, led to suicides”.
The Malaysian government has also been accused of using the brutal punishment of the rattan cane on thousands of foreign detainees in recent years. In 2002 the Malaysian government declared ‘illegal’ immigration to be a criminal offence, which means the cane can be used on ‘illegal’ refugees and migrants many of whom are fleeing human rights abuses or war in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Burma.
The so-called “Malaysia solution” in which it is proposed to swap 4,000 ‘genuine’ refugees held in Malaysia for 800 asylum seekers who have sought refuge on the Australian territory of Christmas Island is an attempt to frustrate the use of the Indian Ocean as a stepping stone to the Australian mainland. By forcibly removing vulnerable women and children to Malaysia the Australian government plans to deter would be refugees from making the perilous sea crossing from Indonesia.
Commissioner Pillay has warned that Australia is in breach of international law for its use of arbitrary detention with respect to asylum seekers, including many hundreds of children who continue to be detained for several months. Commissioner said that
Mandatory detention is also a practice that can – and has – led to suicides, self-harming and deep trauma
This new policy would further undermine Australia’s reputation as a guardian of human rights because it could not ensure “no real risk of breach of the principles of the 1951 refugee convention and the convention against torture, which Australia has ratified and Malaysia has not”.
The New Statesman reports on a BBC investigation that government pilots involving 113 families in London and the North-West had given families with children just two weeks to voluntarily leave the country. Two families who refused to comply were taken into detention and deported shortly after and two families accepted voluntary re-settlement packages. Significantly only 3 of the 113 families involved in the pilot ceased contact with the authorities or disappeared – emphasising the extremely low probability of such families absconding.
As Samira Shackle writes, the real problem is that as a consequence of cuts to legal aid and the closure of specialist providers of legal support to refugees and asylum seekers, ‘the vast majority of people seeking asylum are not given anything resembling a fair hearing’. That appears to be of no concern to the Home Office as it prepares new tough compliance controls involving separately detaining one or other parent in order to force the family onto a flight, electronic tagging, and ‘non-detained’ accommodation new Heathrow Airport from which one assumes it will be difficult to escape.
What the BBC report fails to point out, however, is that following the coalition government’s announcement that ‘the moral outrage’ of child detention was to end, 37 children have been held in immigration detention between 1st June and 4th October according to the UKBA’s own figures.
It would appear that only the Deputy Prime Minister finds the continued incarceration of children by his Home Office colleagues disturbing. With the talk of ‘ending child detention’ shifting to Damian Green’s increasing reference to ‘minimizing detention’ – a practice the Home Secretary staunchly defended in the High Court only a week ago – it is not surprising to hear Dame Pauline Neville-Jones say that ‘I trust that we will not be in a situation in which children are detained for any length of period at all; but certainly if they were, education would be a very important factor’. In other words, we may well need to keep open Yarl’s Wood.
So much for the Deputy Prime Minister’s promise to end child detention for good. The UKBA are trying to soften up the Clegg/Huhn wing of the government for a predictable ‘there is no alternative to detention’ conclusion to yet another flawed pilot. This ill-thought out scheme has everything to do with ramping up the removal figures and nothing to do with allowing parents and children a fair hearing from a genuinely impartial justice system. It is good to hear the Children’s Society voicing its opposition to this despicable attack on vulnerable children and their families. We now need to see all the charities and NGOs who were persuaded to join the government’s flawed and cynical review to follow suit and publicly distance themselves from its punitive and dangerous consequences.
The Today report can be heard on BBC iplayer [about 50 minutes in].
Government turns its back on hundreds of requests to save Sehar: Friends from Glasgow bid a tearful farewell to mother & baby.
This is the text of Positive Action’s Statement to Supporters of the Sehar must stay in Scotland campaign.
Sehar Shebaz was deported on a PIA flight at 17:00 HRS today. Friends from Glasgow took a bus down to say goodbye to her at the airport and to take her the few belongings that were left behind in her flat when she was detained by Brand Street Reporting Centre last week. Dr Imtiaz Rasul and his family from Birmingham also went to say goodbye at the airport. Dr Imtiaz said:
It was really terrible. Sehar looked very small and quiet. She had security officers and police around her as if she was a criminal. It was truly humiliating to say goodbye to her like that. Other people in the airport were watching. Sehar told us to say thankyou to everyone, she tried to smile but in front of police we could feel what she was feeling. My country takes in more asylum seekers than the UK. If the UK only wants to humiliate people then why have an asylum policy, just tell people dont come here. I feel very sad for Sehar and her baby was just upset. We hope in her hearts that her pain does not continue but we are very worried about what might happen.
As the government announces that Dungavel will no longer be used for the detention of children, but will be re-purposed as ‘a health check’ facility for families who are facing removal, young mother Sehar Shebaz and her baby are being transported in a prison van to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire from where the Home Office plans to deport her to Pakistan where she faces violent retribution from her husband’s family after fleeing from domestic violence.
Sehar said: “I told them please don’t send me and my baby in the van for nine hours she is too young, I asked them to speak to my lawyer. But she (Dungavel staff member) just told me, “Look either you go in the van or we will take your baby in a separate van and you wont see her until you get to Yarl’s Wood.”
Robina Qureshi from Positive Action in Housing, Glasgow who has been campaigning on behalf of the family stated:
The new announcement about ending child detention in Scotland means nothing for Sehar, families are simply being driven hundreds of miles and being locked up in Yarl’s Wood in England. The victory was very hollow and we have won no concessions in this case. Please could you use whatever power you possess to stop Sehar and her baby being taken to Yarl’s Wood this morning.
Please express your concern at the treatment of Sehar Shebaz and her baby and call for their immediate release and return to Glasgow.
Danny Alexander, Secretary of State for Scotland firstname.lastname@example.org
First Minister Alex Salmond email@example.com
Tavish Scott, leader of the Lib Dems MSPs firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Clegg, Lib Dems leader email@example.com
Tam Baillie, Childrens Commissioner firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaigners for the release of young Afghani orphan Mashal Jabari were delighted to hear that following a judicial review being lodged the judge agreed the following interim measures: until another full age assessment is completed, Mashal is to be considered 14 years of age and placed with a foster family in Wales where he has some support.
After being transported in a caged van with an adult detainee on the long journey from Cardiff to Oxfordshire, Mashall was placed in a dormitory with seven adult men. The UKBA planned to put Mashal on a flight to Afghanistan on Tuesday 9 March where his parents and sister had been killed for collaborating with the allied occupation forces. His older brother who has been given refugee status is currently taking his GCSE examinations in Leicester and is frantic with worry at the fate of his younger sibling.
Mashal was released from Campsfield House IRC at around 7.30 on Thursday evening and is now with his foster carers in Cardiff. A full update including details of further action and support that would help Mashal’s case to be resolved quickly and to assist him in beginning to recover from the trauma he has experienced in his own country and here in the UK will follow.
Thank you to everyone who sent letters, faxes and emails to the Home Secretary Rt. Hon. Alan Johnson MP, Evan Harris MP and their local MPs.
The response has been overwhelming, heartening and invaluable.
A 14 year old orphan has been arrested & detained in Campsfield Immigration Removal centre near Oxford, which exclusively holds adult males, and is due to be deported because the authorities claim not to believe he is under 18. His older brother has refugee status — the authorities accept that the older brother is under 18. . .As they say, do the maths.
Welsh Refugee Council today called on UKBA and Cardiff Council to act quickly to release Mashal Jabari, 14 years of age, from Campsfield detention centre, and to suspend removal directions until a full assessment of his age can be made. Welsh Refugee Council does not normally comment on individual cases, but in this instance believes that there are compelling compassionate grounds why this boy should be allowed to remain in the UK.
Zaki Jabar, aged 15, arrived in the UK alone and extremely traumatised in November 2008. He came from Afghanistan and when he left his father was missing presumed dead and his mother was sick. His family had been attacked after his father had given assistance to the American forces, and Zaki had seen his sister killed. He was placed in foster care in Leicester by Rutland Social Services and given Refugee Status. He is currently sitting his GCSEs. He was anxious to trace his younger brother Mashal.
Mashal Jabari arrived in the UK in October last year, and claimed asylum on arrival. By then he knew that both his parents were dead. He was assessed as being over 18 even though he said he was 14. He was sent to Cardiff where he was initially placed in the hostel for adult new arrivals. He was refused asylum in November. Welsh Refugee Council staff working in the hostel, who have now known Mashal for 4 months, have been extremely concerned because he seemed so clearly to be 14 rather than 18 and because he has been depressed and suicidal at the fear of being sent home to Afghanistan.
Mashal’s GP has stated in writing that Marshal appears to be under 18. Social workers in Cardiff are on record as saying that they think Mashal is under 18 following an initial assessment, but they have not carried out a full age assessment and so it has not been possible to persuade the Border Agency of his age.
Mashal said he had an older brother called Zaki who was also somewhere in the UK. Eventually, through a chance encounter, it has been possible for the 2 brothers to be reunited – they met last month in Leicester. Photos of the meeting show them with their arms around each other – Zaki the tall broad shouldered one, Mashal the small, boyish one.
The Guardian newspaper in its online edition, carries a report by Diane Taylor and Hugh Muir highlighting the shocking allegations of a former caseworker, at the UKBA office in Cardiff. The former UKBA employee, Louise Perrett, claimed that asylum seekers were mistreated, tricked and humiliated by staff working for the UK Border Agency. Ms Perrett reveals how
- staff kept a stuffed gorilla, a “grant monkey”, which was placed as a badge of shame on the desk of any officer who approved an asylum application
- boys from African countries who said they had been forcibly conscripted as child soldiers were made to lie down on the floor and demonstrate how they shot at people in the bush
- one method used to determine the authenticity of an asylum seeker claiming to be from North Korea was to ask whether the person ate chop suey
- interviews were conducted without lawyers, independent witnesses or tape recorders
One manager said of the asylum-seeker clients: “If it was up to me I’d take them all outside and shoot them.”
Another told her this was to be expected, adding: “No one in this office is very PC. In fact everyone is the exact opposite.”
Home Affairs Select Committee Chair, Keith Vaz said: “I am deeply concerned by a number of ex-UKBA workers who have spoken out about flaws in the points-based system and behaviour such as this. I will be writing to the chief executive, Lin Homer, to discover what steps are being taken to remedy this culture of disbelief and discrimination.”
British boy, 6, to be sent to Congo in divorce row Schoolboy’s mother ordered to go to Congo Republic
By JO STEELE – Monday, November 16, 2009 www.metro.co.uk
A boy of six who was born in Britain faces being sent to a war-ravaged part of Africa because his parents split up.
Adrian Atkinson’s mother, Anna, has been ordered to go to the Congo Republic within the next nine days.
The decision, based on Ms Atkinson’s divorce from Adrian’s father Daniel, has spurred the boy’s friends at Welbeck Primary School in Newcastle to begin a petition. Ms Atkinson also hopes to meet MP Nick Brown for help to overturn the Home Office decision.
Adrian is scared to go to Africa. He was born in Britain and has never even been out of the country on holiday,’ said Ms Atkinson, from Newcastle.
He will not be able to talk to other children because they speak French and he will be seen as an outcast because he is of mixed race, added the 28-year-old.
Ms Atkinson fled the Congo ten years ago after her sister was killed. She later married British oil worker Daniel Atkinson but divorced two years ago.
Adrian can stay but friends say he could not face being away from his mother.
The UK Border Agency confirmed Ms Atkinson’s application was turned down.