Abused, kidnapped and lost – the government should hang its head in shame over its lack of care towards vulnerable minors
Unaccompanied children fleeing war, torture and chaos are surely one of the most vulnerable demographics in the world. Yet an Observer investigation has exposed how once these children reach the UK they can be treated with an appalling lack of care, to the extent that large numbers are being kidnapped in plain sight by criminal gangs. Today, we publish allegations by a whistleblower that the staff in one hotel accommodating some of these already traumatised children have subjected them to repeated emotional abuse.
Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, has met some of the children being housed in a hotel in his constituency. He has described their vulnerability: one 15-year-old from Iran who had lost both of his parents travelled to the UK with a friend but was separated from him because he tested positive for Covid and was so anxious “his face was pinched and his legs were buckling”. The majority of unaccompanied children arriving in Britain come from countries with terrible records of conflict and human rights abuses: Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. Many will be in immediate danger from the criminal gangs to whom they owe money for smuggling them into the country.
‘This is the overarching lesson of our ever-more disrupted world: we need to reimagine how power in the world is exercised, and that all governments not only have the opportunity but the responsibility to take action to protect human rights within and beyond their borders.’
“In 2022, we saw the most significant assault on human rights protections in the UK in decades,” said Yasmine Ahmed, UK director at Human Rights Watch. “From your right to protest to your ability to hold institutions to account, fundamental and hard-won rights are being systematically dismantled.”
Human Rights Watch highlighted several laws introduced in 2022 that had the effect of significantly weakening human rights protections. The UK government introduced laws that stripped rights of asylum seekers and other vulnerable people, encouraged voter disenfranchisement, limited judicial oversight of government actions, and placed new restrictions on the right to peaceful protest.
The government also proposed the repeal and replacement of the Human Rights Act, which gives life to the European Convention on Human Rights in the United Kingdom, with a so-called Bill of Rights. Human Rights Watch said the bill, if adopted, would fundamentally undermine human rights protections in the UK.
I am writing to you because I am extremely concerned that Afghan families that were torn apart during the evacuation of Kabul remain separated, nearly eighteen months after Operation Pitting.
As my MP, I would like you to show your support for these families that were promised help by the UK Government at the time. Please will you ask the Home Secretary and Prime Minister to honour this country’s commitments to those families?
We all saw how children and parents, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers were separated in the total chaos of the evacuation, as they tried desperately to board flights in the summer of 2021. At the time, the UK Government promised that the people who were airlifted to safety would be resettled with their loved ones – correctly recognising that families belong together. However, nearly a year and a half on, families are still separated because the Home Office has not yet put in place a process for their reunification under the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme.
Welcome to this edition of SNN newsletter where we are covering a number of items that will be of interest to everyone involved in migrant and refugee solidarity work.
The first article analyses the change of tone in the public debate about immigration and invites to work together to make 2023 a year marked by the progression toward a progressive, rights-based immigration policy. The second reports a conference on housing justice and highlights the challenges faced by migrant women. Finally we update on the Status Now Network’s strategy weekend, now definitely planned on 27th -29th January 2023.
We wish you a restful winter holiday and a happy new year.
The 5-day training will cover the topics of human rights principles at international borders, human rights monitoring and advocacy strategies, screening and interviewing, detention and return, personal safety and security of human rights defenders including criminalization of human rights defenders, and digital safety and security. The training takes place on 06 – 10 March 2023 in Greece, and the applicants need to be based in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Türkiye or Spain. Applicants will be chosen in a competitive selection procedure and the costs of training materials, travel and full board accommodation will be covered by ODIHR.
If interested, please find the full call for applications here and complete the online application by 19 January 2023.
Updated 6 January 2023: The Brook House Inquiry: Read the full report.
The evidence received by the Inquiry makes clear, in the view of Medical Justice, that the Home Office is not capable of providing a humane system of immigration detention which respects fundamental rights and is consistent with the health, safety and dignity of those held within it. Troublingly, the recent events at Manston Short-Term Holding Facility provide further stark evidence of this lack of respect and inhumanity. Rather than expanding the use of detention, it should be reduced and phased out.
If administrative detention is to continue at all, its use should be truly an exception rather than routine, and subject to strict statutory criteria and a time limit. This view was widely expressed across all parties giving evidence to the Inquiry13. Like HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMIP), Medical Justice agrees that Brook House – and other prison-like facilities – should never have been used to detain people for administrative purposes. Such places certainly should not now continue to be used to hold persons detained under immigration powers.
We are proud to be the UK’s first literary magazine of Sanctuary, accredited by City of Sanctuary.
The second print edition has now been released and is also available online. With a forward by Lord Alf Dubs, it is a selection of fiction, poetry and non-fiction works written by those with with first-hand experience of displacement and seeking asylum. You can find out more here
Malka al-Haddad who some may remember from QARN-Woodbrooke conferences is the poetry editor