Month: October 2009

Kamila Shamsie, Jeanette Winterson, Gillian Slovo, Hanif Kureishi, Ian Rankin and Nick Hornby among dozens of leading writers calling for child detention to end – Petition shoots past 1,500 – 81 MPs join call to end child detention

In today’s Guardian leading writers urge government halt to child detention:

We have been disturbed by Guardian reports (Children made ‘sick with fear’ in UK immigration detention centres, 13 October) about the government’s detention of asylum-seeking children. Doctors’ findings that children at Yarl’s Wood suffered from confusion, fear, sleep problems, headaches, abdominal pain, severe emotional and behavioural problems, illuminate the deceit in UK Border Agency claims that: “Treating children with care and compassion is a priority.” Locking up innocent children in conditions known to harm their mental health is neither caring nor compassionate. Nor is it necessary. Families with children are the very least likely to abscond. Other countries have found more humane arrangements allowing families to stay together in the community while their cases are being considered, or before their return. Asylum-seeking children are already among the most vulnerable members of our society. Detention wrecks young lives. It must stop, now.

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Petition enters Top 100 in less than a month – New Statesman reports on launch of ECDN – Times columnist Sathnam Sangera stand up for Sir Al & against detention – 71 MPs support motion to end child detention

End child detention now has become one of the fastest growing petitions on the No10 website registering over 1,350 signatures in less than a month. It is now one of the 100 most signed petitions out of 4555 on the Downing Street website. Among the many recent signatories ECDN was delighted to spot several award winning writers who have backed our campaign including Ali Smith, Andrea Levy and Gillian Slovo.

In today’s Times column Sathnam Sangera takes critics of the Children’s Commissioner to task for failing to recognise Sir Al Aynsley Green’s persistent objection to the detention of asylum seeking children and points out that had the Child Abuse and Neglect report been about puppies he would have received a welter of outraged emails and letters of support.

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UKBA ‘treats children well’ by ignoring doctor’s warning that young Nigerian girl was a suicide risk

In the week that 10 year old Adeoti Ogunsola tried to strangle herself
to death after being forcibly taken to a removal centre for a second
time by UKBA security guards, the UKBA’s David
Wood
fumes that Henry Porter’s article ‘held little basis in fact’ and
that ‘Treating children with care and compassion is a priority for the
UK Border Agency’. This Orwellian newspeak is accurately exposed for what it really is in a following letter from Dr Graham Ullathorne – child abuse carried out by the state.

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Petition soars through 1,000 – Bestselling author Lynne Reid Banks – 63 MPs support EDM – and a reminder of why this is a life and death cause…

Shortly before 1pm on Friday the end child detention now no10 petition recorded its 1,000th name. A huge thank you to everyone who has signed the petition so far. Let’s redouble our efforts to take the number of signatures to 2,000 in memory of all the children who are arrested and detained by the immigration authorities each year.

We are delighted to have the support of best selling author of the ‘L Shaped Room’ and ‘The Indian in the Cupboard’, Lynne Reid Banks, who wrote to us to say:

A woman I knew, a Quaker, once said to me, “I’m not sure of anything, except this: If you see someone about to harm a child, you must act.” If we saw a government minister about to strike a child and knock it down, every one of us would leap forward instinctively to grab his arm. What is being done in our name in locking up these poor innocents is worse than a blow from a grown man’s hand – it can do life-long damage. Three cheers for everyone involved in this campaign. I’m glad to add my name to the list which I hope will grow and grow’.

63 MPs have now signed the early day motion sponsored by Chris Mullin, Peter Bottomley, and Sarah Teather from across the political spectrum including the Labour Party, SDLP, UUP, SNP, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. This is an unprecedented parliamentary consensus and a clear demonstration that MPs do listen to their constituents and that many are just as shocked as we are that so many children continue to be detained unnecessarily in the United Kingdom.

Is it going to take the death of a child in custody for this government to wake up to the misery they are inflicting on innocent young lives?

The shocking news of the attempt by a 10 year old Nigerian girl to strangle herself to death in Tinsely House immigration removal centre on Sunday 18 October reported by The Guardian on Wednesday shows why this campaign is so important and highlights the human cost of the mistreatment of children who are subject to repeated detention and the threat of deportation to a fate which for Adeoti Ogunsola was more awful than attempting to end her own life. Is it going to take the death of a child in custody for this government to wake up to the misery they are inflicting on innocent young lives? (Listen to the report from BBC Radio 4 Today Programme Friday 23 October).

Stop imprisoning children now

Simon Parker: The Guardian, Comment is Free Would Phil Woolas let his children be locked up? This shameful practice of detaining families seeking asylum must stop

Wed Oct 21 2009

Henry Porter opened his Observer column this week on the plight of the 2,000 children the UK government arrests and imprisons each year with the sobering comment: “Just because we have got into the habit of ignoring something that is wrong doesn’t mean it becomes right.”

Why does this appalling and abusive practice continue under a government that apparently still claims to stand for social justice, human rights and the elimination of child cruelty and deprivation? Various home secretaries and their immigration ministers have received regular representations from Sir Al Aynsley Green, the children’s commissioner; a host of leading children’s charities; the refugee council; trade unions; peers of the realm; leading bishops; and dozens of their own MPs. All to no avail. Read more

Esmé Madill, The Independent: End the inhumanity of child detention

We detain 2,000 ayslum-seeking children each year in awful conditions

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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

While Ali waited for the van to take him to join his parents in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, my daughters helped me pack a bag of toys for his long journey. He was desperate for his mum. He’s two years old. He stopped crying only when he slept. My girls kept asking why I couldn’t stop him going to prison.

Our government detains 2,000 asylum-seeking children every year in conditions known to harm their mental and physical health. The Children’s Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, has urged the authorities to stop. Doctors reporting in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect say children in detention suffer from confusion, fear, sleep problems, headaches, abdominal pain, severe emotional and behavioural problems. They found one 20-month breastfeeding baby in Yarl’s Wood who had been separated from her mother for three weeks. Stress caused older children to wet their beds and soil their pants. Read more

No10 Petition Passes 500 – now the government must respond – Colin Firth speaks out against child detention

Now we have passed 500 – we look forward to receiving the government’s justification for this immoral and unnecessary abuse of children. Our next target is to have one signature for every child that the UKBA will lock up this year. That’s four times as many as have signed so far – so please pass this link on to anyone who hasn’t yet signed. Remember power takes silence for consent. Don’t be part of that silent consent.

The link is http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoChildDetention/

One of our petition supporters, the actor Colin Firth wrote to us to say

It’s hard to think of a good reason to imprison a small child under any circumstances, but there can be no possible justification for locking up children simply because their parents are desperate enough to seek our help. It’s a horrifying practice which shames all of us.

We are shockingly complacent about locking up 2,000 children a year

The plight of the children of asylum seekers represents a sadly unexceptional failure of public conscience, writes Henry Porter in The Observer  on Sunday 18 October Read more

40 MPs call on government to stop child detention in first week – Letter to Guardian – Why does UKBA continue to ignore Dubs report? – Former refugee children launch hand prints campaign in East London

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A great boost to the end child detention now campaign came with the news that in the first five days more than 40 MPs have signed or pledged to sign the House of Commons early day motion sponsored by Chris Mullin – including new signatures from John Austin, Norman Baker, Colin Breed, Annette Brooke, Ronnie Campbell, Martin Caton, Harry Cohen, Jeremy Corbyn, Dai Davies, Janet Dean, Andrew Dismore, Jim Dobbin, David Drew, Mike Hancock, Nick Harvey, Lady Hermon, David Heyes, Mark Hunter, Glenda Jackson, Gerald Kaufman, John Leech, Chris McCafferty, John McDonnell, Alun Michael, Bob Russell, Alan Simpson, Andy Slaughter and Rudi Vis. ECDN sends grateful thanks to every one of you and also to John Grogan,  Simon Hughes, Sir Alan Beith and Clare Short for agreeing to sign too…

These are the letters that ECDN sent to the Guardian and the Independent in response to the UK Border Agency’s claim that the UKBA treats the children it detains in a fair and compassionate way and denying that because the Bail for Immigration Detainees report on the harmful health effects of detention is ‘more than three years old’ it should be discounted. The Home Office has not commissioned and can produce no independent academic research that is able to disprove the medical findings from BID. Neither has it commissioned any independent reports on the effectiveness of alternatives to detention in place in other EU and Commonwealth countries which have been carefully considered by Lord Alf Dubs, the current Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow MP and Evan Harris MP for the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Children and Refugees published more than three years ago.

Meanwhile in a number of schools across East London the Shpresa project will be collecting former refugee children’s hand prints to send to the Prime Minister asking him to end child detention. If you work with refugee children or young people who you think might like to be involved in the hand prints campaign please contact us.

Chris Mullin’s EDM Goes Live – 400+ sign No10 petition – New report shows detention harms children’s health

MPs John Battle, Peter Bottomley, Mark Durkan, Fabian Hamilton, Lynne Jones and Sarah Teather are among the first to sign early day motion 1982 in the name of Chris Mullin calling for an end to the detention of children. Parliamentary support is expected to grow over the coming days as MPs respond to the dozens of appeals from the ecdn campaign team and supporters across the country.

Within less than two weeks the No10 petition demanding a halt to child detention has reached 400 including actor Colin Firth and film maker Livia Firth and the actress Emma Thompson.

Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) published a hard hitting medical report picked up the the Guardian and Independent today (13 October) that of 24 children examined by a team of doctors at Yarl’s Wood Immigraton Removal Centre the majority were experiencing mental and physical health difficulties.

BID reports Dr Ann Lorek, author and Consultant Paediatrician at the Mary Sheridan Centre for Child Health, Lambeth Community Health as commenting: “Our study contains evidence that children in detention have worsening physical and mental health, and express worrying levels of trauma and sickness, despite well intentioned staff. They are locked up with family members for indefinite periods of time, often on several occasions. As doctors, we ask for safeguards to protect these vulnerable children from further harm in detention.”

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