Month: January 2010

Family wins £100,000 for detention ordeal

Bolivian asylum seekers were falsely imprisoned and children traumatised after being held at centre.

Esther Addley, The Guardian, Friday 29 January 2010.
A refugee has won a settlement of £100,000 from the Home Office after it admitted falsely imprisoning her and her children at an immigration detention centre.

Carmen Quiroga, originally from Bolivia, spent 42 days at Oakington detention centre in Cambridgeshire with her son and three daughters, aged between three and 11, in what her solicitor describes as “appalling conditions” that were unsuitable for children, and despite the fact that a judicial review into her asylum plea was continuing for much of that period.

On one occasion Quiroga was struck by a contracted security guard when she failed to maintain eye contact, as the children looked on


In what is thought to be one of the highest payments for a case of this nature, the high court today approved the settlement, offered as compensation for the unlawful detention in 2004 and for serious psychological injuries that it accepted the children had suffered. Such was the distress they experienced that six years later the family have required “significant psychiatric help” to overcome it.
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Judge slams UKBA for unlawful detention of family seeking asylum from Cameroon

Re-posted from the Stoke-on-Trent Sentinel, January 23 2010.

“..the handling of this case as a whole, both prior to and following the bringing of judicial review, fails in several respects to meet the requirements of both the public interest in an efficient immigration system and the protection of individual rights”.

– Judge David Elvin

A FAMILY of asylum seekers are in line to receive tens of thousands of pounds in damages after they were unlawfully detained for three weeks.

A High Court judge yesterday ruled that Fred Nukagem, and his wife and children, were held for too long prior to a planned deportation to Cameroon due to the “procedural ineptitude” of immigration authorities.

Negotiations are now underway over how much should be paid to Mr Nukagem.

And the legal team for the 38-year-old, from Middleport, is also hoping to reach an agreement over a compensation settlement for his wife and three children.

Solicitor Hani Zubeidi, of London-based Fadiga and Co, said: “We are looking at tens of thousands of pounds because, quite frankly, this is a shocking case.”

Mr Nukagem, who says he and his family will be killed for political reasons if they return to Cameroon, claimed asylum after initially arriving in the country in 2003 as a student and later working illegally.

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Major expansion of family detention facilities planned by UKBA

No Borders Brighton is urging Crawley Borough Council to reject plans to turn the Mercure Hotel on Povey Cross Road into a removal centre, writes Miranda Wilson in IRR News.  The group claims the design of the 254-bed hotel means it could only be converted to house families. It strongly opposes the detention of children who it says: ‘are especially vulnerable to the physical and psychological effects of imprisonment and many end up suffering from illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, effects suffered even after a brief period of detention.’

Electric House Reporting Centre and Short Term Holding Facility, Croydon.

This news confirms the view of End Child Detention Now and fellow anti-detention campaigners that the UKBA continues to use detention of children and families not as ‘a last resort’ but as an instrument of policy with a view to removing as many asylum claimants who are initially refused leave to remain as possible, while ‘deterring’ any would be refugee or asylum seeker with the threat of destitution, detention and deportation. A policy that a recent Refugee Council research report has shown to have no significant impact on the destinations of would be asylum seekers.

Despite the overwhelming medical evidence that detention does long term harm to children who are already vulnerable and traumatised, it is clear that the planned expansion of the vastly expensive UKBA detention estate will require thousands more children to suffer what the Royal Colleges of Medicine have described as ‘signficant harm‘.  An assessment which is backed up by the Chief Inspector of Prisons recently published report of an unannounced inspection of the Short Term Holding Facilty, Electric House in Croydon in June last year which discovered from the logs

that the four-yearold, who had been brought in out of hours, had not been accompanied by an adult. In addition, these out-of-hours logs did not record how long the person was detained or where they were sent afterwards.

The report also noted that ‘[i]nformation about the detention of children was not properly monitored, and although there was a child protection policy…it had not been agreed by the local safeguarding children board.  While ‘i]mmigration staff had received child protection training’ – ‘Group 4 Securicor staff were not sufficiently trained in child protection issues and there was no child protection coordinator for the facility’. Suicide attempts are so common that the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons recommends that detention staff carry ‘anti-ligature’ knives at all times.

If these findings were published in relation to the running of a local authority children’s home the chances are it would be immediately shut down, but because these children are ‘in the care’ of the UKBA and their private contractors, the local authority child protection system either turns a blind eye, or in the case of Yarl’s Wood, actively cooperates with a child detention regime which the Children’s Commissioner has declared to be harmful to children. Not only should local authorities be denying planning permission for new immigration prisons, under national and international child protection law they should be demanding that the existing facilities are immediately closed.

Roll calls, body searches and sex games

END CHILD DETENTION NOW exposes UKBA’s misleading claims to parliament on damning medical report.

This piece was written by Clare Sambrook and first appeared at OpenDemocracy

Back in October, a study by NHS paediatricians and psychologists, Lorek et al, found that babies and children were being harmed at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

The doctors recorded children’s ‘increased fear due to being suddenly placed in a facility resembling a prison’, their weight loss and tummy pains, how older children were so stressed they wet their beds and soiled their pants.

The study related the photographing and the fingerprinting, the roll calls and the body searches, the ID cards that children must carry at all times, the ten locked doors between freedom and the family centre, the steep deterioration in parents’ mental health and parenting abilities, the self-harm and the suicide attempts.

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Bringing the gift of literature to the children of Yarl’s Wood

Derek Robinson, owner of the Bluebell bookshop in Penrith

CUMBRIAN bookseller, Derek Robinson, spent Christmas Day making the 500-mile round-trip to Bedfordshire to deliver books and puzzles for the innocent children locked up at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

Derek, whose trip is featured in this week’s Big Issue In the North, owns Penrith’s Bluebell Bookshop. He said, ‘I wanted to bring the very best books we could find, stories of other worlds beyond what the children are enduring, of love, amazing imagination, freedom and excitement, a chance to escape for moments from their distress, into artful and wonderful illustrations.’

He was inspired to act by children’s author Beverley Naidoo’s article in the Guardian about her visit to Yarl’s Wood,

Derek has mounted an End Child Detention Now campaign exhibition at the Bluebell, where customers may sign paper petitions or use the shop’s computers to sign on-line at
http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoChildDetention/.

Our campaign’s Penrith-based co-ordinator, novelist Clare Sambrook, said: ‘We’ve had such encouraging local support. Greengrocers, Green Mangle Organic, are promoting the campaign at their stall. Hundreds of Cumbrians, including the Bishop of Carlisle, many clergy and churchpeople, have signed the on-line petition. Dozens of people have written to MP David Maclean asking him to join the 113 MPs who’ve signed Chris Mullin’s parliamentary motion opposing the detention policy.

‘The children’s authors’ and illustrators’  letter in the Observer, Beverley Naidoo’s chilling Guardian article, and the comment kindly forwarded by Michael Bond from Paddington Bear, have had an impact we could not have anticipated. Many many people are beginning to realise that there are real children locked up in those terrible places, children with the same imaginative and emotional capacity as our children’.

Anyone inspired to highlight the campaign is invited to email us at
info@ecdn.org. Schools, shops, faith groups, trade unions, anyone at all — we’ll be delighted to send images and text for exhibition.

Thanks to Fred Wilson for the picture of Derek Robinson at the Bluebell
www.frederickcameronwilson.com

Miep Gies: The courage to resist injustice

Photograph: Steve North/AP

News of the death of Miep Gies reminds us that an ordinary Dutch family summoned extraordinary courage to shield German refugees, the Franks, from the Gestapo.

Until the Nazis invaded Holland, Anne Frank’s family had been able to find work and safety in their adoptive country.

If they had fled to present day Britain, the Franks might be woken at dawn by perhaps a dozen security officers breaking down their door. Given only minutes to pack just a few belongings, they would be forcibly arrested and taken to a secure detention facility, for weeks or months, then, perhaps, returned to the country from which they’d fled. All this without having had access to a lawyer.

Had they resisted boarding a ‘removal flight’ Anne’s parents would have been handcuffed.

Unlike Miep Gies, we don’t have to risk our lives to protect the thousand or more children and babies who, with their traumatised parents, will experience the terror of UK Border Agency raids this year.

We can sign the petition at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoChildDetention, write to our MPs, open our eyes to the serious physical and psychological harm caused to children who are already among the most vulnerable members of our community. We can lend them our voices, and protest.

Persecution begins at home

Rosarno, Calabria from where African migrants were evacuated following attacks by locals

BRUTAL attacks on African migrant workers in the southern Italian town of Rosarno in recent days prompted the Pope to make a rare comment on contemporary events. Condemning the racial discrimination against and exploitation of immigrants in Italy, Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘Every migrant is a human being different because of provenance, culture and tradition but a person to be respected and having rights.’

But even in Italy, where the unashamedly xenophobic and racist Northern League enjoys widespread support, the President of the Lower House of Parliament, Gianfranco Fini whose party has its roots in neo-fascism, has proposed that migrants be allowed to vote in local elections, that migrants’ children born in Italy should have the automatic right to citizenship, and that the waiting period for adult citizenship be shortened.

By way of contrast, children who have been born in Britain and who know no other country than this one can be arrested in dawn raids by a dozen uniformed security guards, transported in locked vans for hundreds of miles (in some cases without either of their parents present), forcibly photographed and finger-printed, allowed only to take the few possessions permitted, and locked-up without time limit in a high-security prison surrounded by electric fences and razor wire.

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End Child Detention Now candle lit vigil in York 30 December 2009

Campaign supporters gathered outside St Martin le Grand Church in the centre of York just before New Year  to protest the detention of children in immigration removal centres over Christmas and to call for an end to all detention of children by the UK immigration authorities.

The government’s Border Agency imprisons between 1,000 and 2,000 children each year many for several weeks despite opposition from the Children’s Commissioner, several Royal Colleges of Medicine and over 100 MPs from all political parties. There is overwhelming evidence that detention is harmful to the health and well being of children, while the Home Office admits that families are very unlikely to abscond when removal directions are issued.

Campaign organiser Esme Madill said: ‘We know of several York families whose children were detained at Yarl’s Wood and who are still fearful of being taken to “the camp” again despite the fact that their case for asylum was subsequently upheld and that they have been granted leave to remain’.

‘No other civilised country treats vulnerable children in this way and we are determined to make 2010 the year when the government’s commitment to respect the rights of the child is genuinely upheld by closing these dreadful children’s prisons once and for all’.

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