OutCry! campaign update – help us to end the immigration detention of children

We hope that 2010 is treating you well so far. There’s lots to tell you about the OutCry! campaign and the momentum that is now building to end the immigration detention of children. And so much of this momentum is down to all of you who have helped take action on this issue, whether by sending a Christmas card to the Immigration Minister, spreading the word about OutCry!, signing petitions, contacting your MPs, gaining media coverage of the issue in your local area – the list goes on! So a huge thank you and well done to every individual, organisation or campaigning group who has raised the issue. Read on to find out what you can do next to help the campaign, especially using our easy online tool to email your local newspaper editor.

Here’s just a few things that have happened recently to build the pressure…

  • Lots of you sent Phil Woolas MP, the Immigration Minister, a Christmas card as part of the “One More Card” campaign. We don’t know what Mr Woolas’ new year’s resolution was, but we sincerely hope it was to end the detention of children. We know quite a few people received responses from the UK Border Agency, showing that they must have received enough cards to take notice! So thanks again for taking this action.

  • There has been a huge amount of national and regional news coverage about the immigration detention of children. Highlights included the joint statement by the Royal Colleges of Paediatrics, GPs and Psychiatry and the Faculty of Public Health demanding an end to the physical and mental damage done to children who are detained. Then there were visits to Yarl’s Wood by ‘St Nicholas’ and Canon Nick Sagovsky of Westminster Abbey to deliver presents to the children, and by prominent children’s author Beverley Naidoo and illustrator Karin Littlewood. Beverley went on to write a startling and disturbing account of the visit in The Guardian, and lots of other writers and illustrators joined her in calling for an end to the immigration detention of children in a letter in The Observer. Shortly afterwards, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, published in The Daily Mail, calling for an end to what is in effect state sponsored cruelty. And just before Christmas Dame Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons, published her report on an unannounced visit to Tinsley House immigration detention centre, calling the conditions there wholly unacceptable for women and children. Meanwhile, The Independent kicked off the new year with a very welcome detailed investigation – “Detaining children in Britain: No place for the innocent”.

  • OutCry! began its year by helping to support a performance of ‘Motherland’ at the Bedford Civic Theatre near Yarl’s Wood. Produced by Women for Refugee Women and directed by actress Juliet Stevenson, ‘Motherland’ tells the stories of women and children detained in Yarl’s Wood using their own words. The event was incredibly powerful, with a packed theatre and a great audience Q&A with a panel including former detainees, local MPs Alistair Burt and Patrick Hall, a Medical Justice doctor, and Lisa Nandy, Policy Advisor at The Children’s Society. You can read more and see photos of the event on our website.

Take action! Email your local newspaper

Act now, and demand an end to the immigration detention of children. Our new online tool makes it really easy to create and send an email to the editor of your local newspaper. Your email, which we hope the editor will publish in the newspaper, will call on the Government to stop detaining children, and it will urge your local community and your MP to back the campaign. Your message will also be copied to your local MP to make them aware of your views.

In the run-up to the General Election, we hope that actions like this taken by thousands of campaigners like you will create a real sense of local outrage about the awful effects of immigration detention on children. We’ve already seen the power of local communities to raise this issue and generate media coverage. We hope that sitting MPs, and crucially, candidates running for election, will be forced to take notice and act to end this shameful practice.

Its easy to take this action and it’ll only take a minute! Just fill in your details on the website and we’ll find your local newspaper contacts. There’s a template email to send – just add a few words to explain why this issue should matter to your MP and your local community (by making your email local it is more likely that the newspaper will publish it). Afterwards, we even make it easy to email your friends and get them to take this action too! Take this action now…

More actions you can take!

Many other organisations and campaigns are also calling for an end to the immigration detention of children. Why not take one, or preferably all, of these actions to help put pressure on the Government? Petition the Prime Minister, get candidates for the upcoming General Election to sign the Sanctuary Pledge, or urge your doctor to petition the Government...

New on the OutCry! website

We’ve also been busy adding lots more information to our website. Why not have a look at:

  • The latest news coverage
  • “It is like a prison” – words and stories from children and families in detention.
  • What others say – OutCry! is certainly not alone in calling for an end to the detention of children. Have a look at what others have said, including journalists, politicians, authors, medical professionals and international bodies.
  • Learn more about our direct work providing legal and welfare support to children and families in detention.

Thank you again for your support.

Camilla Engeset

OutCry! national co-ordinator