Letter to Jack Straw Secretary of State for Justice – 1 April 2010

To Jack Straw, from the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain:

We are writing on behalf of Meeting for Sufferings, our national representative body, to express our dismay at the continued detention of children who are subject to immigration control in Britain. We remain deeply concerned at what amounts to the imprisonment of children despite very clear UNCHR guidance that young people should not be subject to immigration detention. We do not consider that this practice reflects the humane values of this country or corresponds to any proper understanding of the rule of law.

We urge you  to reconsider your current policy in the light of the recent report of Sir Al Aynsley-Green the Children`s Commissioner, the overwhelming evidence offered by the Royal Colleges of Psychiatrists, Paediatricians and GPs in their recent report of the harmful effects of such detention and the report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers on Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre that sharply criticised the detention of children. We draw to your attention the findings of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights that “detention centres are prison like” and the Home Office Select Committee`s finding that “present practice is unacceptable.”

In the light of these reports, we would like to know what changes you have made or are planning in the way children are taken from their homes and transported to detention and the efforts made to ensure their well-being while they are detained.

We would also like you to clarify, in particular, what action the UK Government will be taking in the light of the recent judgment in the European Court of Human Rights in the case of ‘Muskhadzhiyeva’ where it was found that the detention of children in Belgium was unlawful.

Susan Seymour, Clerk, Meeting for Sufferings

Gillian Ashmore, Recording Clerk

Minister on detaining failed asylum seekers’ children

Meg Hillier, the Home Office Minister responsible for children in detention, was asked if locking up children of failed asylum seekers could ever be justified.

The presenter is JO COBURN

HILLIER: Let’s be clear, nobody wants to see children detained. Certainly I don’t. But we do have an immigration system and we have rules. And when somebody doesn’t have legal right to stay in the country, we ask them to leave voluntarily, and if they don’t we have to have a way of getting them out of the country.

Now with children being detained I’m faced with a number of options. Continue reading “Minister on detaining failed asylum seekers’ children”

Apology for abuse of children – leaflet

Apology for abuse of children THEN,

while NOW…

THEN In February Gordon Brown apologised for the UK’s past role in sending more than 130,000 children to former colonies where many suffered abuse.

He said: “To all those former child migrants and their families… we are truly sorry. They were let down.”

NOW In February Children’s Commissioner Sir Al Aynesley Green called for families with children not to be detained: Continue reading “Apology for abuse of children – leaflet”

Twins aged five taken to Dungavel

There has been long-running controversy over the detention of children at Dungavel

A Church of Scotland minister has spoken out after two five-year-old boys were taken to the Dungavel detention centre in their school uniforms.

Reverend Ian Galloway spoke out following the detention of Nigerian twins Joshua and Joel Ovranah, and their mother, Stephanie. He said it was the “latest example of young children being put in distressing circumstances”. Continue reading “Twins aged five taken to Dungavel”



LEADERS of Christian and Jewish Faiths called upon the Government to stop detaining the children of asylum seekers in letters to the national press last week.

The Most Rev Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, The Rt Rev John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds and Susan Seymour, Clerk, Meeting for Sufferings, The Religious Society of Friends are among prominent Christians who signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph calling for ‘an immediate end to the unnecessary and inhumane practice of imprisoning children, babies and young people in immigration removal centres.’ Continue reading “FAITH LEADERS CONDEMN DETENTION POLICY”

A matter of conscience: hunger strikers at Yarl’s Wood

Frances Laing reports on the women’s hunger strike that started on 5 February

Activists show their solidarity with the hunger strikers. | Frances Laing

On Friday 5 February women detained at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire started a hunger strike. It involved over eighty women who were locked up at the centre.

The following Monday the Black Women’s Rape Action Project – who support women at Yarl’s Wood – published a report that alleged that the hunger strikers had suffered brutal recriminations and had been beaten by guards and subjected to racist abuse:

‘Over fifty women are currently trapped in an airless hallway in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. On Friday 5 February they began a hunger strike. Today they were herded into the hallway where they have been left there for over two hours without access to water or toilets. Four women, including an asthma sufferer, have fainted. Around 1.30 the guards came into the hallway and started to beat women. As we spoke to one woman she told us that someone was bleeding. One of the managers told the women they would regret what they have done; she called the Chinese women monkeys, and the Black women black monkeys. Four other women have been locked in other rooms for three hours, and have been told by room mates that their belongings have been packed. They are worried they face immediate removal even though their cases are still being considered. Fifteen women have been locked up in “Kingfisher”, the punishment wing. Continue reading “A matter of conscience: hunger strikers at Yarl’s Wood”

Quakers call for end to detention of child immigrants

Christians join forces to urge change to government practice of imprisoning children
Quakers in Britain have joined a call on the UK government to ‘bring an immediate end to the unnecessary and inhumane practice of imprisoning children, babies and young people in immigration removal centres’.

The demand was made in a letter published in the Daily Telegraph today and was signed by Susan Seymour, clerk of Meeting for Sufferings (a decision-making body of Quakers in Britain). The letter was written in response to the children’s commissioner report on children detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, which was published last week. Last year, a report by NHS paediatricians and psychologists, ‘Lorek et al’, reported in the international peer-reviewed journal, Child Abuse & Neglect, (October 2009) that children locked up at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre were ‘clearly vulnerable, marginalised, and at risk of mental and physical harm as a result of state sanctioned neglect.’

The doctors recorded children’s ‘sexualised behaviour’, older children’s tendency to wet their beds and soil their pants, the ‘increased fear due to being suddenly placed in a facility resembling a prison’, the ‘abrupt loss of home, school, friends and all that was familiar to them.’ Continue reading “Quakers call for end to detention of child immigrants”

The Children’s Commissioner for England’s follow up report to: The arrest and detention of children subject to immigration control February 2010

Foreword and introduction

As Children’s Commissioner I have a statutory duty to promote awareness of the views and interests of children, particularly regarding their physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing, their education, training and recreation and protecting them from harm and neglect.

Each year some two thousand children are detained for administrative purposes for immigration control, the majority being held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. I have visited this facility three times during the last four years because of my profound concern over the treatment and management of children in that location. My second visit in May 2008 led to a report, The Arrest and Detention of Children Subject to Immigration Control, published in May 2009. In my report I argued that the administrative detention of children for immigration control must end, but being pragmatic and recognising that the process was unlikely to end immediately, I called upon Government to ensure that detention genuinely occurs only as a last resort and for the shortest possible time following the application of a fair, transparent decision-making process. Continue reading “The Children’s Commissioner for England’s follow up report to: The arrest and detention of children subject to immigration control February 2010”

Building a coalition – endorse OutCry!

Do you represent an organisation which supports our aim to end the immigration detention of children? We need your help! As individuals your help is crucial, but we also need to build a strong and broad coalition of organisations to put pressure on the Government. Why is this so important? Because the Government may try to dismiss a few organisations as “just the usual suspects” making a noise about something other people don’t care about. We know this isn’t true, and by joining together we can show them that a consensus exists. The Government also tends to listen to experts – that’s why the medical report and Royal Colleges’ statement before Christmas made such an impact. So we’re asking organisations like refugee groups, children’s charities, faith groups, unions and academic institutions to stand with us, along with doctors, teachers, social workers and lawyers. To endorse us, just send us an email at together@outcrycampaign.org.uk with the name of the organisation you represent, and the contact details of someone we can keep in touch with.

Thank you again for your support.

OutCry! response to Children’s Commissioner’s report 17 February 2010

Press statement in response to the Children’s Commissioner’s follow up report to the Arrest and Detention of Children subject to Immigration Control.

The Children’s Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees strongly support the report published by the Children’s Commissioner for England, which adds to a growing body of evidence that the process of immigration detention is harmful to children.

As part of the OutCry! campaign, the two organisations support families who are currently detained or have been detained in Yarl’s Wood. OutCry! is calling for an end to the immigration detention of children. Continue reading “OutCry! response to Children’s Commissioner’s report 17 February 2010”