Candlelit vigil to be held in Seven Sisters, London on November 20th, 6:30pm, for children still being detained under immigration powers despite pledge from coalition government to end practice.

Students from SOAS who visit and support families and individuals in detention will be available for interview to talk about why they do this, and their campaign.  There will be ex-detainees at the vigil and the MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, has been invited – he has been involved in two Public Bill Committees dealing with immigration and asylum issues and he is an ex-SOAS student.   We hope to encourage him to speak out about the continued detention of children.

Six months after the coalition government pledged to end the detention of children for immigration purposes, children continue to be locked up at detention centres. Earlier this month the Home Office revealed it intended to continue detaining children for immigration purposes until at least March next year .

On Saturday November 20th SOAS Detainee Support (SDS) will hold a candlelit vigil for these children on Universal Children’s Day .

A spokesperson for SDS said: “The British government may be continuing to lock up children in immigration detention centres, but the British people will not let them do it in secret.

“For this Universal Children’s Day the message must be how the UK government has chosen to ignore reports by experts, ignore advice by children specialists and ignore even their own research which incontestably affirms the barbarism of the practice. The copious evidence of how children are routinely traumatised by their experiences in detention is undeniable.”

The alternative to detaining children and their families is simple; not detaining children and their families. So why are there still children locked up today? A society is responsible for the welfare of its children. In any situation where children are involved the priority for the government should be the health and safety of the child. It is a source of great shame for the British government that it has policies which explicitly sanction practices which have been found to be severely damaging to the mental health of the children involved .

In a letter published in the Guardian on November 12th, many prominent public figures demonstrated their outrage that Britain was involved in causing such harm to children in its care, calling on the government to take action to stop the practice immediately.

On November 20th, Universal Children’s Day, SDS is calling people to join them and other campaigners on the streets to amplify that message.

Meghan Thom, who has visited children and families in detention said: “Universal Children’s Day should be a day when we can celebrate the lives of the children in this country, not a day when we have to be ashamed that our government is not only complicit in, but encouraging of, the abuse of children.  We will continue to hold vigils over the country until the government acknowledges its responsibility to put the welfare of the child above everything.  This of course means ending the detention of children, but it goes further than that – child welfare and safeguarding must be placed at the heart of any new practice that is developed.

“Damian Green, immigration minister, said in May that if children were still being held in detention centres by Christmas he himself would dress up as Father Christmas and visit them.  That time is nearing and I would like to say that we will hold him to this promise, but actually I can’t think of anything scarier for the children than being visited by a Father Christmas with the face of the person who has sentenced them to that hell!”

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