Category: child detention
Open letter to Gordon Brown
Nick Clegg 15/12/09
I am writing to urge you to stop the scandal of hundreds of very young children, including toddlers, spending this Christmas locked up behind bars in Immigration Centres in Britain.
One of the best ways to judge the moral compass of a nation is how we treat children – all children.
There is now concrete evidence that the very young children who find themselves locked up even though they’ve done nothing wrong are suffering weight loss, post traumatic stress disorder and long lasting mental distress.
How on earth can your Government justify what is in effect state sponsored cruelty?
Of course we must keep track of adults who are seeking asylum in this country, and deport them where justified. But this can be done through other means.
It is simply indefensible to do so at the cost of the mental and physical wellbeing of very young children.
I would also ask you to lift the paranoid Government secrecy which surrounds the work of the Immigration Centres. Your Government has consistently refused to provide total figures of the number of children detained.
This attempt to cover up such a morally reprehensible practice only makes matters worse.
The British people want us to take a world lead in the way we treat toddlers and children, not to inflict systematic cruelty on them behind a veil of Government secrecy.
I look forward to your urgent reply.
Read the full Daily Mail story by Jason Groves here
We are pleased to pass on this message from Paddington Bear to all our supporters, which the writer Michael Bond OBE (and No10 petition signer) has been kind enough to forward:
“Whenever I hear about children from foreign countries being put into detention centres, I think how lucky I am to be living at number 32 Windsor Gardens with such nice people as Mr. and Mrs. Brown.
Mrs. Bird, who looks after the Browns, says if she had her way she would set the children free and lock up a few politicians in their place to see how they liked it!”
In fact it has been an extraordinary few days for the end child detention campaign with a report of Beverly Naidoo and Karin Littlewood’s visit to Yarl’s Wood to run a reading workshop in the Bedfordshire Times & Citizen. Plus coverage of the barring of St Nicholas on ‘security grounds’ from the premises of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre on Radio 4’s Sunday programme and the Daily Telegraph.
There was widespread reporting of the Royal Colleges of Medicine statement against child immigration detention in the media with live interviews on BBC television and radio and extensive reports in The Guardian news pages and comment is free, The Independent and The Times.
Re-posted from Ekklesia 4 December 2009
The police were called on the patron saint of children and the imprisoned today, as he tried to deliver Christmas gifts to children at a detention centre. The inspiration for the modern day Father Christmas, St Nicholas of Myra, was turned away at the gate of the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire when he tried to deliver presents to the children locked up inside for administrative purposes.
Jolly Old St Nick brought with him £300 worth of gifts donated by several London churches for the estimated 35 children currently detained. Dressed in a red robe, long white beard, and a bishop’s mitre and crook, and accompanied by the Rev Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, they hoped to spread some St Nicholastide cheer among the children of migrants detained there. The atmosphere became rather less jolly when the Home Office authorities who run Yarl’s Wood refused permission for St Nicholas to enter the Centre to distribute the gifts to the children. Despite the authorities having agreed to accept the gifts, St Nicholas was met at the gates by a group of unidentified security guards who barred his entry and ordered him to leave the area. They later called the police as St Nicholas blessed the gifts.
On Wednesday 2 December the Scottish Parliament held a business debate on the detention of children at Dungavel immigration removal centre. The debate, sponsored by SNP MSP Sandra White (Glasgow) revealed an unprecedented cross-party consensus against detaining children in immigration removal centres such as Dungavel.
However, the progress the Scottish government thought it had made in halting the detention of children in Scotland has proved somewhat illusory. As Sandra White told the chamber:
Last year’s commitment to limit the detention of children in Scotland to a maximum of 72 hours appeared at the time to be a step forward. Unfortunately, the measure has simply resulted in children being taken from their homes to Dungavel, held for the maximum 72 hours and then transferred to Yarl’s Wood in England after that period has expired.
This is a cynical manipulation of the Home Office’s undertaking to the Scottish government to limit the detention of children and a shocking indictment of the UKBA’s claim that children’s welfare is paramount. As Sandra White continued:
The lip service that has been paid to the agreement and the way in which the Home Office is getting round the commitment that it made is shameful and totally unacceptable.
By Simon Parker
In a report released today the Home Affairs Select Committee expressed a number of concerns about the detention of children in the UK immigration system but failed to acknowledge that the detention of children for any length of time is abusive and harmful to their well being. In the first part of its report the Committee declares:
‘..it must be remembered that Yarl’s Wood remains essentially a prison…while we accept that conditions have improved, we still regret that such a facility is needed in the first place’.
Unfortunately the committee’s regret that the UKBA runs child prisons did not extend to recommending that the Home Office stop locking children up in them.
‘We are…willing to accept the detention of families and small children provided that this is for short periods of time which ideally are defined in advance, and when this is the very final stage in the immigration removal process’.
It is astonishing that the Select Committee could ignore the very clear advice from the Children’s Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley Green that,
‘…depriving children of their liberty and detaining them for administrative convenience is never likely to be in their best interests and should be ended’
while they completely ignored the only peer reviewed medical research into Yarl’s Wood that showed that even short periods of detention are damaging to children’s physical and mental health.
This has been a momentous week for the end child detention campaign with the No10 petition recording its 2,000th name – one for every child arrested and locked up by the UK Borders Agency just because they or their parents have dared to claim asylum and refused to be returned to countries the Home Office declares to be “safe” such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Zimbabwe and the Congo.