Category: campaigns

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.

End Child Detention Now calls for permanent halt to detention in government review

Immigration Minister Damian Green’s invitation to submit evidence to the government’s review of child immigration detention ended on 1 July 2010. End Child Detention Now’s submission can be read in full here. Please visit the Review page for submissions from other organisations and concerned individuals – more will be added as we receive them.   A summary of ECDN’s submission follows:

Summary of End Child Detention Now’s Submission to the Home Office/Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund Review into ENDING THE DETENTION OF CHILDREN FOR IMMIGRATION PURPOSES.

We are conscious that a number of other agencies and organisations have direct experience of working with detained asylum seeker families, so in what follows we reprise the key evidence that has been presented in the last twelve months on the significant harm that even short periods of detention can have on children and young people.

We agree with Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, in the recent House of Commons debate on alternatives to child detention when he said,

‘The main alternative that I can think of to detaining 1,000 children a year is not to detain them’.

That must be our starting point. It is for the UKBA and the other national and local government bodies along with relevant charities, voluntary agencies and campaign organisations to develop humane alternatives that keep this objective at the front of all the review’s deliberations.

We argue that the lack of adequate legal representation for families who wish to make an asylum claim or appeal against a refusal of asylum lies and the long delays in resolving cases lies at the root of the problem. Another issue is the lack of contact with families or information on assisted voluntary return prior to the issuance of removal notices.

We note the absence of a ‘children’s rights first’ culture within the UKBA, despite the provisions of Section 55 of the 2009 Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act and the appointment of a Children’s Champion. This problem has been exacerbated by an institutional culture within the Home Office, the UKBA and among previous ministers of state that the maintenance of a detention regime is an essential deterrent against those who may make unfounded asylum claims in future.

End Child Detention Now believes that all those involved in considering alternative arrangements to detention must agree a clear distinction between the need to ensure the welfare and best interests of the child and the UK government’s legitimate objective in maintaining an effective asylum and immigration policy.

As Sir Al Aynsley-Green has stated, this requires a change of mindset from a culture of ‘deny, detain, deport’ to one which removes the adversarial aspect of case management, grants leave to remain to those who require the United Kingdom’s protection and supports and compassionately facilitates the return of those who do not.

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Campaign to save Refugee & Migrant Justice fails

Refugee and Migrant Justice administration – update

RMJ’s final release: Refugee and Migrant Justice is saddened to announced that a last-minute rescue plan to save the organisation has not succeeded.

After launching an emergency appeal for funds, £76,525 was pledged by members of the public within a 24 hour period and a number of charitable trusts and organisations offered significant support. However, talks with the Legal Services Commission, RMJ’s main funder, were unsuccessful.

The administrators BDO are now in the process of winding down the organisation.

People who kindly pledged money to RMJ are being informed and their money will be returned.

Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice said:

During this period, RMJ has received the most amazing support from supporters and we were overwhelmed and touched by the offers of financial help in response to our campaign. We would like to thank everyone who has tried to save RMJ and very much regret that it has not been possible.

Please direct any media enquiries to the BDO press office, which can be reached at http://www.bdo.uk.com/press/press-office-contacts

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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.

Don’t replace child detention with enforced separation

New immigration plans will end child detention but we should be wary of substituting one form of state abuse with another.

Simon Parker, Comment is Free, The Guardian, Friday 28 May 2010.soas-carnival-logo

The announcement in Tuesday’s Queen’s speech that along with a cap on non-EU immigration, the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government no longer intends to detain children under immigration control powers comes as a welcome boost to the many thousands of concerned citizens who have signed petitions, lobbied their MPs and parliamentary candidates, written to the local and national press, and organised vigils and demonstrations in order to bring this shameful practice to an end.

However, before we begin any premature celebrations, there are some troubling aspects of the new coalition agreement that deserve especially careful scrutiny. The first point is that Nick Clegg and his team rightly sought to insist that the declaration would commit to ending the detention of families, but the Conservatives struck this out and insisted that the no-detention policy would apply only to children.

Damian Green also declared that while the review was underway, the existing policy of detaining children would remain in place, despite the fact that the government now appears to accept that the practice of detaining children is harmful and unwarranted. The shocking case of the arrest and detention of Sehar Shahbaz and her eight-month-old baby in Dungavel and their nine-hour journey in a prison van to Yarl’s Wood, which Colin Firth highlighted in a letter to the Guardian, if anything suggests a hardening of minds rather than the “changed mindset” that Sir Al Aynsley Green has called for in the Home Office.

Indeed, an Iranian family of five, including the pregnant mother, were arrested and detained on the day it was announced child detention was due to end – and were issued with removal instructions to a brutal regime whose response to political dissent involves torture, lengthy jail sentences and state execution.

Campaigners should at least take heart that the review is about to start soon and that it is expected to conclude within weeks rather than months. But as yet there is no commitment to a timetable for implementing any alternatives to detention, or a promise not to arrest and detain families in the meantime.

A major concern for refugee, asylum and children’s welfare organisations is the clear implication that by agreeing only to spare children from detention, the Home Office is considering the option of taking children into care while their parents are detained. This would be to substitute one form of state child abuse with another, and would not only be contrary to article 8 of the European convention on human rights, it would be opposed, one would hope, by every local safeguarding children board and director of social services in the country – not least because it would make social workers complicit in damaging rather than protecting the welfare of the child.

As advocates of the end to child immigration detention, Clegg and Chris Huhne are in a powerful position to insist that their pledge to release children from their detention nightmare does not give way to the equally abusive cruelty of enforced separation. Opponents of child and family detention will be taking their demands to No 10 Downing Street on Saturday 5 June as part of the Release Carnival, which starts in Torrington Square at midday. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

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.

Get Behind the Sanctuary Pledge!

End Child Detention Now is urging all its supporters to get behind the inspiring Citizens for Sanctuary prospective parliamentary candidate pledge campaign which is especially emphasising the scandalous detention of children by the UK immigration authorities. Dozens of PPCs have signed up to the pledge – but many more have yet to declare their support.

You can check the list of candidates who have pledged so far by clicking here.

This is why we need you to contact candidates in your constituency and to urge them to join the pledge. You can find a list of the candidates in your constituency by visiting the your next mp website. If a particular candidate has not signed the pledge email or call them to ask them why – the your next mp site provides contact details in most cases. Let us know what the candidates say or even if they decline to comment by dropping us a line at info@ecdn.org

So far the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and Respect have committed themselves as political parties to end child detention (other parties are invited to join this list by emailing us). However, the two largest parties in the previous parliament, Labour and the Conservatives have not given such an assurance, which is why it is so important to find out the views of individual candidates.

End Child Detention Now has no political affiliations but we know we speak for many thousands of voters in demanding that immigration gulags such as Dungavel, Yarl’s Wood and Tinsley House should be shut down. People are dying in detention centres and threatening to take their own lives – how can we call ourselves a civilised democracy when our government abuses human rights on a daily basis?

If your sitting MP condones this misery then send them packing, and if their would be replacements won’t commit to ending child detention please don’t give them your vote either.

This is our greatest chance to return a parliament that upholds the principle of refuge and that all children’s rights are for all children. Together with our friends and fellow campaigners let’s pledge to end child detention now!

Mashal released by judge pending new age determination investigation

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.

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

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