Month: November 2010

ECDN media campaign update

A busy fortnight for End Child Detention Now began with a post by Simon Parker on 16 November in OpenDemocracy – On Her Majesty’s Deceitful Service: The Woolas Case and the Ignoble Lies of the British State.

This was followed by a letter in reply to MP Tom Brake’s defence of the Lib Dem’s role in ‘ending child detention’ – without actually ending it in The Guardian on 18 November.

The Media Show on Wednesday 24 November featured an interview with Clare Sambrook on the ECDN media campaign and winning the Foot and Bevins prizes for investigative journalism. Clare also published a long feature on the history of the End Child Detention Campaign, Children seek the final exit from house of nightmares, in today’s Times (Saturday 27 November) [requires subscription].

End Child Detention Campaign wins second prize for investigative reporting

At a ceremony in London this evening (Tuesday 9 November) Clare Sambrook was awarded the Bevins Prize for Investigative Journalism and collected its Rat Up a Drainpipe trophy for 2010, for her reports on the website openDemocracy and its UK section, OurKingdom.

Last week she won the 2010 Paul Foot Award and its £5,000 prize. This is the first time a web journalist has won either award.

See Clare’s latest article published on Monday this week here.

For a list of her openDemocracy coverage see here.

Clare is part of the campaign to End Child Detention Now see here.

Read Anthony Barnett here on the originality of her journalistic method of ‘Investigative Comment’ and openDemocracy’s policy of openness.

Clare Sambrook said,

Anthony Bevins set a terrific example of journalism keeping a distance from power, finding his own stories with tenacity and a sense of mischief. I am stunned to find my name linked to his. This is especially welcome to the campaign at a time when the government has completely reneged on its commitment to end child detention.

Anthony Barnett, her editor on the UK section of openDemocracy, OurKingdom said,

Journalism is going to be improved by the best of the web, as shown by Clare’s brilliant writing and sharp and brave reporting. She shows that an outsider with a mind of her own, supported by a great team at ‘End Child Detention Now’ can produce really effective reporting of the highest standards, in a tradition that goes back to William Cobbett.

Oliver Luft, reporting on behalf of the Press Gazette described the presentation:

Presenting her with her prize at the ceremony, in London last night, award trustee Andrew Marr praised the “huge amount of reporterly work” conducted by Sambrook, who he said had straddled the online, printed and the broadcast worlds to “thrust her campaign as hard as she could up the nether regions of those in power”.

“We chose somebody who has operated through newspapers, online and has turned her journalism into a huge campaign,” he said.

“In this country, which is allegedly civilised, at this moment children of people who have come in completely as of right to seek asylum are incarcerated in a way that is utterly against all our best traditions.

“This was a cause that was championed by our winner, which effected the general election campaign… including eminently the Liberal Democrats whose leader denounced the practise and who now as deputy prime minister appears to have done very little about.”

The Bevins Prize is awarded in honour of Anthony Bevins, the leading political journalist who worked for a wide range of newspapers during his career: the Liverpool Post and Echo, the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Times, the Independent, the Observer and the Daily Express. Bevins often seemed to represent an almost one-man stand against what Nick Davies, the journalist and author who appears on this year’s shortlist, has called ‘churnalism’. Wherever he worked, Bevins researched rigorously, and regularly broke otherwise untouched – even ‘untouchable’ – stories. This award in his name aims to encourage and promote that relentless pursuit of truth. The Prize is a bronze statue of a ‘Rat up a Drainpipe’, Bevins’s favourite phrase, capturing the essence of his approach to journalism.

This year’s shortlist included David Cohen who wrote in the Evening Standard about the tragic fate of newborn babies buried four to a plot in paupers’ graves. Sean O’Neil and David Brown who investigated the child sex abuse scandal centred on the Benedictine Monastery and St Benedict’s school for The Times. Nick Davies who wrote extensively on the “dark arts” of phone tapping for the Guardian. Clare Sambrook for openDemocracy, the Guardian and New Londoners on the detention of children in the immigration system. Finally, Jerome Starkey reported on the uncovering of botched action in Afghanistan for The Times.

The judges were: Shami Chakrabarti, Director, Liberty
Colin Hughes, Director, Business and Professional, Guardian News and Media
Paul Lewis, Journalist, The Guardian, 2009 Bevins Prize winner
Ken Livingstone, Former Mayor of London
Andrew Marr, Journalist and Broadcaster
Heather Brooke, Writer, Journalist & Activist

End Child Detention Now Campaigner Clare Sambrook Wins Paul Foot Award

Clare Sambrook, novelist and journalist, has won the 2010 Paul Foot Award for her writing and reporting in support of the campaign to end child immigration detention. Thanking the judges for this ‘massive honour’, Clare told the audience at the Guardian/Private Eye ceremony at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in London this evening that “reading Paul Foot’s books when I was fresh out of university gave me a strong sense of what journalism could and should be.

“This is a massive honour, hugely encouraging and a real boost to the End Child Detention Now campaign at a time when the government has reneged on its commitment to stop this inhumanity.’

Clare’s journalism is rooted in End Child Detention Now, a citizens’ campaign to end the scandal of child detention by the UK immigration authorities — formed in July 2009 by six friends. End Child Detention Now members working unpaid and unfunded: persuaded 121 MPs to sign a parliamentary motion calling for the end of child detention; held vigils and demonstrations in London, York and Dagenham; support families in detention and on their release; addressed the Church of England Synod Public Affairs Council; collaborate with campaign groups including Shpresa, Refugee & Migrant Justice, SOAS Detainee Support, Women for Refugee Women, Yarl’s Wood Befrienders, Welsh Refugee Council, Positive Action in Housing; coordinated a series of public letters in the national press from church leaders, novelists, children’s writers, actors & directors; prompted questions in the Commons, the Lords and the Scottish Parliament and in six months raised nearly 5000 signatures on a national online petition.

Commenting on the rising ECDN campaign towards Christmas 2009, Dr Frank Arnold, clinical director of Medical Justice and an expert in torture scars said:

‘Over many years numerous groups and individuals have attempted to combat the horrible practice of detaining children, families, torture survivors and others who have sought refuge in the UK from brutality in their homelands. The process and the justifications for detention have become ever more illogical and baroque. For the first time, we are beginning to see a truly powerful groundswell against it.’

Rushed deportations are not the answer to family detention

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].

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