Monday, 6 December 2010

Nick Clegg's message to CITIZENS UK

Over the past year, you have all been working extremely hard to end the detention of children and families for immigration purposes. Many of you were with us at the historic event of May 3rd, when the party leaders pledged to us to end this cruel practice. The Coalition Government then announced its commitment to end the detention of children.

In July, Immigration Minister Damian Green MP confirmed their commitment to us, by stating that there would be no child in detention by Christmas.

Ending this practice not only needed a change in policy, but also a massive shift in culture. Something that needed time, and patience!

You will also be aware that back in August, CITIZENS UK established a Taskforce that would look at safe, sustainable and humane alternatives to Child Detention. Although originally set up to look at the most difficult of cases, those families who refused to comply, the Taskforce put forward recommendations for the whole ensured return route. Please click here to download a copy of the report. Last week, the recommendations of the Taskforce were submitted to the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office.

The Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg was due at our South London CITIZENS Assembly on December 2nd at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Unfortunately, at the last minute he was called out of the Country. Luckily, he was able to send us a video message which stated that they would be making an announcement before Christmas as to how and when Child Detention would end for good. Please see here for the video message…

There was also massive recognition for CITIZEN UK and all those who had been involved in the Sanctuary Pledge. We were also blessed with the presence of Sarah Teather MP Minister for Children, who confirmed that there will be an announcement before Christmas.

Last Thursday’s Guardian carried an article which gives more background to the process. Please see here for more details:

The next step is for the Deputy Prime Minister to announce how and when they will end Child Detention. We are expecting this to happen next week, and will keep you informed as to how and when.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Nick Clegg announces end of detention for families at Yarl's Wood

Today at Prime Minister's Questions, Nick Clegg announced the end of child detention at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre.

This is fantastic news - and a major step forward towards ending child detention altogether. Mr Clegg promised a fuller statement in the near future which would offer more details.

It is less than a year since Canon Jim Rosenthal and Canon Nick Sagovsky were infamously turned away from Yarl's Wood when trying to deliver gifts for the kids dressed as St Nicholas. Now it seems likely that this Christmas there will be no children locked up in Yarl's Wood, or anywhere else for that matter.

Don't forget that you and people like you made this happen: ordinary citizens who persuaded your prospective parliamentary candidates to sign the Sanctuary Pledge, and who won the commitment to end child detention from Nick Clegg, and to set up a working group to advise on alternatives from David Cameron, at the CITIZENS UK Assembly on May 3rd. That was evident in the fact that the MP who asked the question at PMQs, Dr Julian Huppert, was one of sixty MPs who signed the Sanctuary Pledge. He was convinced to do so by a hard-working CITIZENS for Sanctuary team in Cambridge.

Since then leaders from CITIZENS UK have played a key role in the working group set up to advise on alternatives, and have helped to ensure that the coalition government sticks to its promise to end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

Much of the hard work of finding humane and robust alternatives to child detention is still to be done, but thank you for supporting the Sanctuary Pledge campaign thus far. And for now let's celebrate this important step, tell our friends the story of how organised citizens made this happen, and count our blessings that the Immigration Minister will not have to dress up as St Nick this year!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Immigration Minister Damian Green to CITIZENS for Sanctuary: an end to child detention ‘within weeks’

"This will be a better country when we don't detain children for immigration purposes"

Describing CITIZENS for Sanctuary as "one of the most effective lobbying organisations ever", the immigration minister, Damian Green, last night pledged that there would be no more children of families seeking sanctuary in immigration centres by the end of the summer, and certainly by Christmas. He said that "weeks, rather than months" after a government review of detention ends on 1 June "we will be able to announce the solution and then we will have got to the point where children are not detained for immigration purposes in the UK".

Speaking at Westminster Abbey at an event organised by CITIZENS for Sanctuary, he said it was 'not just a duty but a pleasure' to end the practice. The event was organized to celebrate the successes of CITIZENS for Sanctuary over the past year and half and to pay tribute to the leaders and partners who have worked together over the past 6 months to bring about an end to detaining children and families for Immigration Reasons. Around 80 leaders, partners and funders gathered at Westminster Abbey to celebrate and to meet other leaders from around the country. A number of MPs who had signed the pledge were also present as well as Sharon Flannery, Director for London and South East region for UKBA. Leaders had gathered to hear when the new coalition government would stop detaining children and families.

Minister Damian Green stated,

This will be a better country when we don't detain children for immigration purposes.There is no getting away from the fact that if you are a civilised decent human being the sight of young children locked up behind bars should make you feel profoundly uneasy.

Referring to widespread press coverage at Christmas last year over the refusal by Yarl's Wood to allow CITIZENS for Sanctuary leaders to give Christmas presents to the children locked inside, Neil Jameson, CITIZENS UK executive director), asked Mr Green if he could confirm there would be no children there by next Christmas. "There should be no need for anyone to dress up as Father Christmas this Christmas at Yarl's Wood this year," the minister joked. "If anyone has to, I will."

Mr Green also congratulated CITIZENS for Sanctuary campaigners for securing a more humane reception centre at the immigration processing centre at Lunar House in Croydon. "I'm pleased to say that when I went there last week it now looks like an entry point for human beings rather than cattle. So that's one significant thing you chalked up even before the issue of children in detention," he told the gathering at Westminster Abbey.

He said it was important to separate the issue of sanctuary from that of immigration, to prevent extremist parties claiming that they represent the mass of British people. He said the Government were also carrying out,

a general review of the asylum system ... to ensure that decisions are right first time, because much of the misery in the current system, as many people here will know, is caused by the sheer length of time it takes to come to a decision. It's not good for the individual asylum seeker, but it's also not good for the taxpayer, and it's not good for the general confidence in the system.

He praised CITIZENS for Sanctuary for representing what he called a "sensible and humane" view of asylum policy.

The mass of the British people are perfectly sensible and humane on this subject and their views need representing. CITIZENS for Sanctuary reflects many of those views and as I said at the start, represents them very, very successfully. I think you're a tremendously successful lobbying group and you should all congratulate yourselves and pat yourselves on the back this evening.

Jeff Sango, leader with CITIZENS for Sanctuary said

The build up of the campaign against child detention by CITIZENS for Sanctuary, the pre-election debates at the CITIZENS UK party leaders accountability assembly on 3rd May 2010 and an immediate action to stop child detention by the new coalition government, through the personal commitment by Minister Damien Green, shows how the power of organising communities by CITIZENS UK can bring about effective policy changes in government. As a Zimbabwean community leader, I am very excited and encouraged by Minister Damien Green's immediate response and a call to action by the new government.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

CITIZENS UK welcomes commitment to end child detention in Queen’s Speech

2010 Queen’s Speech:
“My Government will …end the detention of children for immigration purposes.”

CITIZENS UK and the leaders of the Sanctuary Pledge campaign, having secured the commitment by David Cameron to end child detention, are now looking forward to helping the government to put in place alternatives.

Three days before the election, David Cameron told the 2,500-strong CITIZENS UK General Election Assembly:
“It is not acceptable what happens at the moment [child detention], not acceptable at all. We will look at it closely and I will make sure that CITIZENS UK is part of that process.”

Cameron’s pledge came after a meeting between CITIZENS UK leaders and the Conservative Party leader’s aides a few days before. This followed the year long Sanctuary Pledge campaign, supported by eighteen faith and civil society institutions, which convinced local prospective parliamentary candidates to support policies to end the detention of children and families for immigration purposes.

The Liberal Democrats, who also pledged to end child detention at the CITIZENS UK assembly, were persuaded to include this commitment in their manifesto by a delegation of leaders from CITIZENS UK and the Sanctuary Pledge campaign at their party conference in 2009.

The Immigration Minister, Damian Green MP, recently promised to end the detention of children within months and has announced a wide-ranging review.

Jonathan Cox, who led CITIZENS UK’s Sanctuary Pledge campaign, said:

“We are delighted that the coalition government is fulfilling the promise that David Cameron made to us on May 3rd. We look forward to working with the government as part of its working party to ensure that the new policy is family-friendly and results, as swiftly as possible, in the release of captive children. There are many alternatives to child detention. The important thing is that the solution matches the different circumstances of each family. What we need to avoid is a bureaucratic ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer which would create new problems.”

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Coalition Pledge confirmed: "We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes."

The BBC has now published the full text of the agreement between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

There is one line - crystal clear and beautifully unequivocal - which states the position of the new coalition government:

"We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes."

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

We just made history! New coalition government pledges end to child detention

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

Today we can celebrate a moment when a small group of committed citizens - no more then 500 people across our nation who met with their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to ask them to sign the Sanctuary Pledge -managed to change the world.

David Cameron is still forming his new coalition government, and we have no idea who the new Home Secretary will be. But we do know that the coalition government is committed to ending the detention of children for the purpose of immigration control. This is a huge victory for CITIZENS for Sanctuary teams across the UK who have been campaigning hard for an end to child detention, taking on their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in the run-up to the election.

Here's a potted history of the campaign:
  • Summer 2008: Independent Asylum Commission (IAC) recommends an end to child detention

  • January 2009: CITIZENS for Sanctuary launches as a CITIZENS UK campaign to use community organsing to implement the IAC's recommendations

  • August 2009: CITIZENS for Sanctuary persuades leading faith organisations to support a campaign in the run-up to the election calling for an end to child detention.

  • September 2009: CITIZENS for Sanctuary launches the Sanctuary Pledge campaign at the Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative party conferences. After a presentation on the issues and an emotional testimony by a Zimbabwean leader, Lib Dem MPs and advisers agree to support the Pledge. One of Nick Clegg's advisers tells us: "Your intervention has influenced the Lib Dem manifesto - we will call for an end to child detention."

  • December 2009: Canon Nick Sagovsky and 'St Nicholas' are turned away from Yarl's Wood detention centre when attempting to deliver gifts to the children there. The story makes national news and raises awareness of the Sanctuary Pledge. Soon after, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg writes to Gordon Brown calling for an end to child detention.

  • January 2010: CITIZENS for Sanctuary leaders and organisers contact the immigration spokespeople of each party and inform them about the Sanctuary Pledge. The Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party agree to support the Pledge.

  • January-March 2010: CITIZENS for Sanctuary community organisers train groups of community leaders in 15 locations across the UK in how to build powerful coalitions and negotiate effectively with their local parliamentary candidates. Over 500 people are trained, and begin to approach their candidates.

  • March 2010: Child Detention Minister, Meg Hillier, meets with Barbara Nalumu, Lorin Sulaiman and organisers from CITIZENS for Sanctuary to explore options to reduce child detention. At a further meeting there is a strong commitment to reduce child detention, but no clear action plan for taking this forward.

  • March 2010: Leaders of the 18 partner organisations formally launch the Sanctuary Pledge at the Mothers' Union HQ in Westminster, and write to the Home Secretary and his opposition equivalents, seeking their response.

  • March 2010: CITIZENS for Sanctuary leaders successfully deliver Easter eggs to the children detained at Yarl's Wood.

  • April 2010: The Lib Dem, Green, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party manifestos all contain commitments to ending child detention as a result of lobbying by CITIZENS for Sanctuary.

  • April 2010: CITIZENS for Sanctuary leaders meet with their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates and persuade many candidates from all the mainstream parties to back the Sanctuary Pledge.

  • April 2010: Members of London Citizens meet with Labour's Meg Hillier to clarify the party's position on child detention. She agrees to set up a working group to reduce, and ultimately end, the detention of children, and promises that CITIZENS UK will be represented on that group.

  • May 2010: Over 300 CITIZENS for Sanctuary leaders from across the UK attend the CITIZENS UK Assembly of 2,500 people where Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron are asked to commit to ending child detention. Nick Clegg is unequivocal, David Cameron describes the practice as "unacceptable" and promises to set up a working group to look into the issue, Gordon Brown also commits to a working group. Both agree that CITIZENS UK will play a key role in the working group. There is now a cross-party consensus on the issue. All of the leaders agree to meet with CITIZENS UK at least once a year to be held to account for their promises.

  • May 2010: Gordon Brown writes a letter announcing his endorsement for the Sanctuary Pledge and promising to encourage other candidates to sign.

  • May 2010: The election result is indecisive. What we do know is that at least 60 of those elected from all of the major parties have personal relationships with CITIZENS for Sanctuary teams in their constituencies, signed the Sanctuary Pledge, and agreed to meet with them six months later to be held to account for progress they have made in implementing the Pledge.

  • May 2010: David Cameron and Nick Clegg agree a coalition between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. Thanks to the lobbying of the Lib Dems, the coalition commits to ending the detention of children for the purposes of immigration control.

Obviously the battle is not won until every child is out of detention. But what is clear from this potted history of the campaign is that community organising works! If it wasn't for the power of citizens who lobbied hard at both local and national level, striking relationships with power players in all of the main parties, putting the issue on the Lib Dem agenda at party conference last year, getting it included in four manifestos, gaining Conservative acquiescence at the CITIZENS UK assembly, and pushing Labour to endorse the Sanctuary Pledge - then history would not have turned out like this.

So well done to those committed, thoughtful citizens who really struggled hard to make the Sanctuary Pledge campaign a success. You just made history.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

MPs elected who have signed the Sanctuary Pledge so far...

Total MPs signed up to the Sanctuary Pledge as individuals: 59

Number of MPs signed up to the Sanctuary Pledge through their party: 300

Labour: 241
Lib Dem: 52
SNP: 6
Plaid Cymru: 3
Green: 1

List of individual MPs signed up to the Sanctuary Pledge by party:

Labour - 38

Margaret Hodge - Barking & Dagenham
Mike Wood - Batley and Spen
Roger Godsiff - Birmingham Hall Green
Graham Stringer - Blackley and Broughton
David Lammy - Tottenham
Khalid Mahmood - Birmingham Perry Barr
Jon Cruddas - Dagenham and Rainham
Tessa Jowell - Dulwich and West Norwood
Sheila Gilmore - Edinburgh East
Ian Murray - Edinburgh South
Vernon Coaker - Gedling
Martin Caton - Gower
Glenda Jackson - Hampstead & Kilburn
Frank Dobson - Holborn & St Pancras
John McDonnell - Hayes & Harlington
Mike Gapes - Ilford North
Gordon Brown - Kircaldy and Cowdenbeath
Fabian Hamilton - Leeds North East
Rachel Reeves - Leeds West
Sir Peter Soulsby - Leicester South
Heidi Alexander - Lewisham East
Tom Blenkinsop - Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
Alun Michael MP - Cardiff South & Penarth
Pat Glass - Durham North West
Nia Griffith - Llanelli
Michael Meacher - Oldham West and Royton
Owen Smith - Pontypridd
Jim Fitzpatrick - Poplar and Limehouse
Simon Danczuk - Rochdale
Kevin Barron - Rother Valley
John Denham - Southampton Itchen
Alan Whitehead - Southampton Test
Chris Leslie - Nottingham East
Lilian Greenwood - Nottingham South
Alex Cunningham - Stockton North
Chuka Ummuna - Streatham
Stella Creasy - Walthamstow
Lyn Brown - West Ham

Lib Dem - 8

John Hemming - Birmingham Yardley
Simon Hughes - Bermondsey
Sarah Teather - Brent Central
Stephen Williams - Bristol West
Julian Huppert - Cambridge
Chris Huhne - Eastleigh
Ed Davey - Kingston & Surbiton
John Leech - Manchester Withington

Conservative - 8

Anna Soubry - Broxtowe
Andrew Griffiths - Burton
Pauline Latham - Mid Derbyshire
Peter Luff - Mid Worcestershire
David Amess - Southend West
James Paice - South East Cambridgeshire
Gary Streeter - South West Devon
James Wharton - Stockton South

SNP - 2

Angus Robertson - Moray
Pete Wishart - Perth and North Perthshire

Plaid Cymru - 1

Elfyn Llwyd - Dwyfor Meirionydd

Green - 1

Caroline Lucas - Brighton Pavilion

DUP - 1

Jeffrey Donaldson