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

Media references to the Sanctuary Pledge from CITIZENS UK Assembly


Marina Hyde in the Guardian:

Michael White in the Guardian:

Financial Times:

Channel 4 blog:

Oxfam blog:

Aberdeen Press and Journal:

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Take action - your PPC now has no excuse not to sign the Sanctuary Pledge!

So we have scored a great victory - but we cannot be complacent. We must secure that victory. We will not rest until we actually see the number of detained children falling. We will hold those party leaders to account for the promises they made to act on child detention at the CITIZENS UK Assembly.

You can help secure this victory by making sure that as many PPCs as possible sign up to the Sanctuary Pledge and agree to meet with you six months after they are elected. So if you have any Lib Dem, Labour or Conservative candidates who have a chance of winning and who haven't signed the Sanctuary Pledge, then you should contact them urgently by phone if you have already dealt with them, or by email if not, sharing with them the support expressed by Cameron, Clegg and Brown (exact quotes available here) and encouraging them to sign too. A deathbed conversion is better than no conversion at all!

There are already of dozens of PPCs from all of the major parties, including ministers and frontbenchers from all those parties, signed up to the Sanctuary Pledge list. There is now no excuse for not signing the Sanctuary Pledge! So please contact your PPCs today!

Calling them direct is best, but you can also use this excellent tool from our Sanctuary Pledge partners, Church Action on Poverty, to contact all your local PPCs. Even if they are too busy to discuss it now, then try to bag a meeting for post-election.

Make sure you let us know what they say in response!

Three party leaders promise action on child detention... & Gordon Brown formally endorses the Sanctuary Pledge!

Monday was a truly historic day for CITIZENS, for the Sanctuary Pledge campaign, and for all of us who are fighting to secure for justice for people fleeing persecution and to rebuild public support for sanctuary.

At the CITIZENS UK General Election Assembly in London yesterday, 300 Sanctuary Pledge supporters joined over 2,000 leaders from London Citizens to present a People's Manifesto to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown. The Sanctuary Pledge, and particularly its call for an end to child detention, was a key part of the People's Manifesto.

So what did the party leaders say?

Nick Clegg stated clearly that he wants to end child detention - "Let us put an end to the locking up of small innocent children. How can we consider ourselves a civilised country and lock up kids?".

David Cameron said he would set up a working party to review child detention which CITIZENS UK would be part of: "I absolutely share your concern about sanctuary. It is not acceptable what happens at the moment [child detention], not acceptable at all, and we will look at it. I will make sure that you are part of that process."

Gordon Brown did not address the issue directly in his speech, which focused on the economic agenda. When questioned, he said: "I want no child in our nation to suffer or be abandoned. I will look at the issue of child detention again." Many people were not happy that he was not pushed further on this.

However, we suspect that this was largely to do with the lack of time available and a desire to focus on the economic agenda. We now have a letter from Mr Brown, in which he says: "I am happy to endorse the Sanctuary Pledge and will encourage all Labour candidates in the coming election to also support it." I hope we will all help him out with that process!

Thanks to the Sanctuary Pledge team in Hackney South and Shoreditch who met Home Office minister, Meg Hillier, last week. At that meeting we gained a commitment from her that Labour will set up a national working party that will look to find practical solutions that will mean no child needs to be detained. She assured us that CITIZENS will be part of that group.

So whoever wins the election next week, and whoever become PM, we know that they have responded positively to the Sanctuary Pledge, we know that they have promised action on child detention, and we know that CITIZENS will be involved in working with government to develop those policies.

This is your victory. Without the power of citizens putting pressure on their local candidates and asking them to sign the Sanctuary Pledge, this would not have happened.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Watch PPCs from all parties in Cambridge queue up to praise the Sanctuary Pledge team

You can now watch the recording of a recent hustings in Cambridge where the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from all parties are falling over themselves to express their support for the Sanctuary Pledge, and to congratulate the Sanctuary Pledge team.

Watch the debate here.

Well done to Anna Rowlands and her team!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Half-way there in Hall Green

Respect and Labour candidates have enthusiastically signed up to the Sanctuary Pledge in Birmingham's Hall Green constituency, where Labour holds the advantage in the notional 2005 election results. Agreeing with the Pledge entirely, Salma Yaqoob and Roger Godsiff signed up in meetings with the local delegation - a team led by Sarah Teversham of St. Mary's Church, Moseley, and RESTORE, a Birmingham Churches Together undertaking for people seeking sanctuary.

Meanwhile, Tory and Lib Dem candidates are still to reply to initial letters, although the Pledge will be raised as an issue in the upcoming hustings.

Accountability meetings for after the election will also be arranged at the hustings.

Friday, 23 April 2010

"You use whatever power you've got"

Some major gains have been reported today from the London constituency of Ilford South. Phil Butcher, Director of the Commission for Justice and Social Responsibility at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brentwood, leads a team representing over 2000 people from Catholic and Baptist churches as well as the local Albanian community.

In a difficult constituency which has previously had some BNP presence, Toby Boutle* (Cons) Mike Gapes (Lab) Wilson Chowdhry (Greens) have all readily and without reservation signed the Pledge. We have yet to hear back from the Lib-Dems who have not yet responded to our mails.

By contrast reports from the nearby Brentwood and Ongar constituency, led by Davina Bolt, suggest that Conservative candidate and former MP Eric Pickles has been reluctant to sign.

Asked to give advice to struggling delegations, Revd Butcher stated: "ensure that you have your power base; use whatever power you've got; and don't give up". He added that working on the Sanctuary Pledge has enabled him to "focus on some of the key issues" of relevance to the community.

An accountability meeting has been arranged with Mike Gapes.

* We would like to apologise to Mr Boutle and issue a retraction of comments previously posted in this article that wrongly suggested that he was avoiding discussion of this issue. We are delighted that he has signed the Sanctuary Pledge and are happy to apologise for our error.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

"The most organised group I've ever been lobbied by"

This is the first of a series of daily reports from Sanctuary Pledge delegations across the country.

Civil society leaders in Nottingham East today reported "marvellous" gains in their campaign to sign PPCs up to the Sanctuary Pledge, with all three of the main contenders - Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative - agreeing to the 5-point agenda.

The large delegation is led by Revd Karen Rooms of St. Ann with Emmanuel Church, and includes Dr Musharraf Hussain, Chair of the Christian-Muslim Forum and local imam; Richard Hawthorne of Nottingham's Interfaith Council; and members of Faiths in Action, the Eritrean community, the Pakistani Christian community, and local Anglican, Quaker and Methodist churches - covering at least 1400 people in the constituency altogether.

Liberal Democrat candidate and Borough Councillor for North Keyworth Sam Boote called the team "the best organised group I've ever been lobbied by".

The hard work culminated at the hustings at which Chris Leslie (former MP and Labour candidate), Ewan Lamont (Conservative), Sam Boote and independent candidate Benjamin Barton signed a large version of the Pledge.

Commenting that it has been "great to see people enthused and wired" about the Sanctuary Pledge, Revd Rooms advises struggling delegations to share out responsibility - to allow different members of the team to become experts on different parts of the ask so that they can respond effectively to challenges. She also says: "Trust the process [...] Get as broad a delegation as you can".

Accountability meetings have been set for after the Election. We look forward to seeing how the candidates' commitment translates into action.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Time to end the detention of children is now

By Dr Austen Ivereigh

Each year the UK Border Agency (UKBA) detains around 1,000 children in immigration removal centres (IRCs). The reason: their parent or parents have been identified for forced removal from the UK.

They range in age from babies to older teenagers, but are mostly in the age range of 10-12 years. Most have spent many years in the UK while their parents’ case for asylum has been processed, and speak with British accents after being educated at British schools.

They have committed no crime. Yet suddenly they are arrested and imprisoned – for weeks at a time, out of sight of the press and the courts. Some spend only a few days in detention at Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, the main IRC with family facilities; others many weeks, or even months. The average is 15 days – described as “unacceptable” by the children’s commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley-Green. When they are released, less than half of them are put on a plane back to their parents’ country; most go back to where they were before they were detained. Many are detained more than once.

Mark Easton, the BBC home affairs editor, wrote in April 2009: “What sort of country sends a dozen uniformed officers to haul innocent sleeping children out of their beds; gives them just a few minutes to pack what belongings they can grab; pushes them into stinking caged vans; drives them for hours while refusing them the chance to go to the lavatory so that they wet themselves and locks them up sometimes for weeks or months without the prospect of release and without adequate health services? My country, apparently.”

Almost every child who is detained suffers some injury to their health, physical and mental. Being arrested, transported and locked up is, in itself, traumatic: they recall with horror being woken early in the morning by uniformed officers breaking down the front door, told they have just minutes to pack their most essential belongings, then watching their parents being handcuffed. “Children, even the youngest, are deeply affected and traumatised by these events,”

Sir Al reported in 2008. “Many of them have recurring nightmares about them, and they often demonstrate changes in behaviour. They can become persistently withdrawn, cling to their parents, refuse food or wet the bed. Children's best interests appear to me to be entirely invisible during the arrest and escorting process.” Many of these children have put down roots in Britain after many years, and are torn from their friends and belongings. “I speak to these children in places like Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre,” Sir Al wrote, “and they answer my questions in regional British accents acquired over many years of integration into our communities and schools. It seems positively cruel to rip up the hopes and aspirations of these young people, who have become settled and enjoy close ties with friends, teachers and neighbours, due to the historic problems of managing the asylum system inefficiently.”

The children’s commissioner wrote a report on Yarl’s Wood in 2009, noting certain improvements but calling for the practice of child detention to end. “We stand by our contention that arrest and detention are inherently damaging to children, and that Yarl’s Wood is no place for a child”.

The health profession has been queueing up in recent years to denounce the practice. A coalition of royal medical colleges said in a joint report in December 2009 that mental health problems, self-harm and even suicide are some of the consequences of detaining children. They say that the practice exposes children to “significant harm”, a term used to trigger child protection policies.

The Guardian, New Statesman and the Observer have long called for the practice to end. Petitions have been signed and parliamentary motions tabled. Faith and civic leaders and many NGOs have called for an end to the detention of children, which is incompatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is at odds with the Government’s own statutory commitment to safeguarding the welfare of children.

There is a consensus that the practice must end.

The Government says that it doesn’t want to lock up children but sees no alternative. "If people refuse to go home then detention becomes a necessity,” the immigration minister, Phil Woolas, told the BBC last year. “We don't want to split up families, so we hold children with their parents.”But this assumes that families who have reached the end of their claim process do “refuse to go home”. On the whole, they don’t.

The real purpose of locking up families is to make the removals process more efficient. Bureaucratic considerations are being put before human dignity. Sweden and Australia are among the countries which have now put an end to the practice without in any way undermining the removals process. (Swedish law retains the right to detain children, but for a maximum of three days). In Canada and Australia, schemes in place make detention very unusual - -and compliance with removals are around 90%. When a group of MPs looked into the matter in 2006, they found no evidence that families with children would be less likely to allow themselves to be removed, and concluded that “the most obvious alternative to detention is simply not to detain”. There is a strong case that children who have spent many years in the UK and have been educated in British schools should be given the right to remain in the UK. In August 2004, the Home Office made Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) available to families who had at least one child under 18 in the UK on 2 October 2000 or 24 October 2003, and whose principal applicant had lodged their asylum claim before 2 October 2000. The rationale driving the one-off exercise was both moral and pragmatic: where families have been in the UK for a substantial period of time, their children are likely to have integrated into UK society, may have little or no meaningful links with their country of origin and removal would have a significant impact on their well-being. Claims are now processed much faster and people returned to their countries more quickly. But many of those children who are detained are part of an administrative backlog, the product of the breakdown in the Home Office’s ability to process claims around 2001-2003. They should be given ILR on a similar basis to the 2004 initiative.

In those very rare cases where the Home Office could, hypothetically, demonstrate that there was a significant risk of absconding, there are still alternatives to detention: a bail scheme, for example, where the family seeking sanctuary might agree to live at a certain address, with friends agreeing to act as surety.

As a last resort, electronic tagging of the parents is at least preferable to detaining their children.
The time to end this shameful practice is NOW

NEWSFLASH: Scottish National Party makes manifesto commitment to end child detention

The Scottish National Party has published its manifesto today - and they have included a commitment to end child detention.

"Our MPs will continue to ...stand up for what is right, arguing for example for the Home Office to end the practice of holding the children of asylum seekers in detention centres."

It's on page 16 of the SNP manifesto, which you can find here.

That means that the Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP have all made manifesto commitments to end child detention. Congratulations to Sanctuary Pledge teams in Scotland who have worked hard to make this happen!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Act now to make sure your Parliamentary candidates support the Sanctuary Pledge

[An article printed in the Migrant Voice election newspaper]

The politicians are on the back foot, argues Jonathan Cox, and this is the best opportunity in a generation to commit the mainstream parties to rebuilding support for sanctuary and ending the detention of children.

Our nation provided sanctuary to Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in 17th century France, Jews fleeing the Nazi regime in the 1930s, Ugandan Asians forced out by Idi Amin in the 1970s, Bosnians escaping ethnic cleansing in the 1990s and Zimbabweans seeking a safe haven today. Our tradition of providing sanctuary is part of what makes Britain great. That tradition is under threat.

In recent years the rise of extremist politics, media scare stories, and high profile failings by the Home Office have led to this issue becoming a political football. Yet over two-thirds of the public still think it is important that the UK provides sanctuary to people fleeing persecution. We agree. We believe that sanctuary should not just be part of the UK’s history. It should be part of our future too. We want our political representatives to agree too.

This is a time of incredible political opportunity. With an election in the offing the polls are predicting a close battle, with a hung parliament, minority administration or an entirely new government all being possibilities. This will also be the youngest and most inexperienced parliament since the time of Cromwell, with many MPs standing down or likely to lose their seats to be replaced by fresh faces.

Since its creation last year, CITIZENS for Sanctuary has achieved considerable success at local level – organising teams of citizens to tackle slum housing, the issue of cashlessness, and unduly harsh reporting requirements across the UK. Now we are ready to make change in national politics through the Sanctuary Pledge. The Sanctuary Pledge is based on the recommendations of the Independent Asylum Commission (IAC) and calls on those who seek to represent us in Parliament to agree that our tradition of sanctuary is precious, to affirm the IAC’s five sanctuary principles, and to take five concrete actions, one of which is to support policies that will bring an end to the detention of children and families for immigration purposes. You can read the Sanctuary Pledge in full here:

Our campaign strategy is to train delegations of citizens in 200 of the most important battleground constituencies to meet face-to-face with their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates and ask them to sign the Sanctuary Pledge. If they do not sign they will then be asked publicly at the local hustings to explain why it is that they want to lock up innocent children. Thus far, not many politicians have been keen to have to answer that question in front of an audience!

But our strategy is not primarily based on moral arguments. Our strategy is based on the power of community organising which asserts that when we organise leaders of communities to take action we can make change happen. The Sanctuary Pledge is supported by 16 organisations representing 7 million people across the country. But for success we need ordinary citizens - like you - to convince your local candidates to sign the Sanctuary Pledge before the election.

We have the best opportunity in a generation to secure long-term political support for sanctuary and to end the detention of children. If we delay until after the election it will be too late - the power will have shifted from the people to the politicians. So action now is imperative – please work with us to make sure your Prospective Parliamentary Candidates support the Sanctuary Pledge. Your action, along with the actions of many people like you across the country acting in concert, really will make a difference.

If you would like to take action to support the Sanctuary Pledge please email or visit the website .

Jonathan Cox is the Lead Organiser of CITIZENS for Sanctuary and Director of the Sanctuary Pledge campaign.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Another manifesto success as Greens call for an end to child detention

Following its inclusion in the Lib Dem and Plaid Cymru manifestoes, the Green Party win the prize for the commitment to end child detention most in line with the Sanctuary Pledge.

Check out the positive use of language in their manifesto which came out earlier this week: "Those seeking sanctuary should not bedetained, and in particular the administrative detention of children is unacceptable andshould cease immediately."

Again, this did not happen by itself - it was the hard work of Sanctuary Pledge leaders who met with Green Party officials earlier in the year to gain this commitment.

You can read the full manifesto here. The relevant section is on page 46.

Baptists, Methodists and United Reformed Church blog in support of the Sanctuary Pledge...

You can read their blog here.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

NEWSFLASH: Lib Dem manifesto pledges an end to the detention of children!

Congratulations to all Sanctuary Pledge supporters who have put pressure on Liberal Democrat candidates - today's Lib Dem manifesto includes a commitment to "end the detention of children in immigration detention centres."

You can read the full manifesto here. The relevant section, entitled "a safe haven for those fleeing persecution" is on pages 76 and 77.

If your Lib Dem candidate hasn't signed the Sanctuary Pledge yet, then this should seal the deal!

This could also be significant if there is a hung parliament and the Lib Dems hold the balance of power - we need to make sure that they push whichever party leads the next government to work to end child detention.

For those of you in Wales, Plaid Cymru have also committed themselves to ending child detention in their manifesto: "We condemn the practice of housing recently-arrived asylum seekers, especially children, in "detention" or "removal" centres."

For those of you who have seen the Labour and Conservative manifestoes, sadly they do not contain a commitment to ending child detention.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Sanctuary Pledge leaders distribute Easter eggs in Yarl's Wood

Lorin Sulaiman, Barbara Nalumu, Rev'd Bruce Stokes and Rev'd Dr Andrew Davey (and Paddington Bear!) deliver Easter eggs to the children locked up at Yarl's Wood.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Salvation Army backs the Sanctuary Pledge in its Election Manifesto

The Salvation Army has now published its 2010 election manifesto.

The Salvation Army supports the Sanctuary Pledge, and you can find it on page 17 of the manifesto.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Passover and the principle of refuge - Sanctuary Pledge in Saturday's Guardian

Dr Edie Friedman, Chief Executive of Sanctuary Pledge partner, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, has a comment piece in today's Guardian which plugs the Sanctuary Pledge.

Check it out here.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Faith & civil society leaders challenge political parties to end the detention of innocent children in Yarl’s Wood

Leaders from eighteen of the most powerful religious and civil society organisations in the UK joined with refugees and former child detainees in Westminster yesterday to call on the Home Secretary and his opposition counterparts to back a major new campaign – the Sanctuary Pledge – and make an election commitment to supporting policies that will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

Senior leaders from the organisations supporting the Sanctuary Pledge, including Bishop Patrick Lynch (Catholic Bishops’ Conference), Vivian Wineman (President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews), Rev’d Jonathan Edwards (General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain), Bishop Christopher Chessun (Church of England), Barbara Nalumu (London Citizens) and Margaret Beringer (Trustee of the Mothers’ Union) signed letters to the Home Secretary and the principal spokespeople on Home Affairs in the other mainstream political parties.

The letter asks each spokesperson to outline what steps their party would take, if elected, to reduce sharply and, ultimately, end the detention of children and families. It also requests that they meet a delegation of leaders from the Sanctuary Pledge campaign to discuss practical steps that can be taken to end child detention following the election.

The Sanctuary Pledge calls on Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from the mainstream political parties to commit to rebuilding public support for the provision of sanctuary to refugees in the UK, and to work to end the detention of innocent children and families for immigration purposes. The campaign has provided Obama-style community organising training to citizens in 200 battleground constituencies so they are able to persuade their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to support the Sanctuary Pledge, and hold them to account after the election.

Rev’d Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said:
“We are particularly concerned about the detention of children and young people. There is overwhelming evidence that holding children in detention centres is damaging to their physical and emotional wellbeing. Children are particularly vulnerable, and no matter where they are from, we all have a duty to protect them from harm. We encourage politicians from all parties will sign the Sanctuary Pledge and commit to ending the detention of children.”

Margaret Beringer, Trustee of the Mothers’ Union, said:
“Mothers’ Union tackles family issues and fights poverty and injustice across the world through its 3.6 million members - some of whom have faced displacement from or within their own countries. The Sanctuary Pledge is important in supporting children and families who have faced injustices, oppression and terror at home and seek sanctuary in the UK. Mothers’ Union believes that children should not be detained for immigration purposes and that politicians must address the issue of sanctuary responsibly during their General Election campaigning.”

Lorin Sulaiman, who was detained as a child, said:
“I came to the UK as a child with my family to seek sanctuary from the regime in Syria which persecuted us because we are Kurds. We were detained by the Home Office for 10 days. Not once, was I asked if I was ok – it felt like no one cared. At 14 I should have been playing with my school friends. Instead I was locked up and prevented from going outside. We were released, and have been granted permission to stay in the UK. I know that politicians don’t really want to lock up innocent children – and that is why we are asking them to support the Sanctuary Pledge.”

Barbara Nalumu, a leader with London Citizens and CITIZENS for Sanctuary, said:
“An election is coming up and this is the time when ordinary citizens have the power to ask the people seeking election as MPs to listen to the issues that they care about, and take action. I am one of hundreds of people across the UK who live in a marginal constituency and will be asking all of the people who are asking for my vote to sign the Sanctuary Pledge. I encourage all citizens of good will to do the same.”

You can view photos of the launch here.

Sanctuary Champions in London write to their PPCs requesting a meeting to discuss the Sanctuary Pledge

Over 50 people trained as Sanctuary Champions in London on Saturday - and took the next step towards getting their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to sign the Sanctuary Pledge by posting letters to them all asking to meet during the election campaign

With about 6 weeks to go until the election, there are now people trained in about 150 constituencies across the UK. If you haven't posted your letter to your PPCs yet, then make sure you do it soon! Check out our website or email us for more information.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Mothers' Union encourages its members to back the Sanctuary Pledge as part of its 'New Vision, New Future' election guide

Outcry! - The Children’s Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees strongly support the Sanctuary Pledge

The Children’s Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees strongly support the Sanctuary Pledge, launched today. The pledge aims to build a political consensus in support of reaffirming Britain’s historic tradition of providing sanctuary to people fleeing persecution.

The contrast is stark between the need to give sanctuary to people – including children – fleeing persecution, and the current practice of forced detention. Britain is locking up people who have not committed a crime and we believe that this is an outrage. We are delighted that the Sanctuary Pledge is joining the OutCry campaign in recognising that the cruel and inhumane practice of immigration detention for children must end.

A key element of the Sanctuary Pledge is that it aims to “support policies that will end the detention of children and families for immigration reasons”. The Children's Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees fully support it.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Jewish Council for Racial Equality persuades PPCs to back the Sanctuary Pledge in Hampstead & Kilburn

Edie Friedman, Chief Executive of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, succeeded in getting two more Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to sign the Sanctuary Pledge last week.

Having attended a local hustings in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency, Edie persuaded Lib Dem candidate Ed Fordham (right) and Conservative Chris Philip (left) to sign the Sanctuary Pledge - and even got some photos to prove it!

Message of Support for the Sanctuary Pledge from Yasmin Alibhai Brown

"Britain has two faces when it comes to the dispossessed seeking refuge.

One is humane, open, ready to receive and embrace, the other is harsh, cruel and selfish. It has been ever thus. The Hugenots, then Jews, then Africans, now Arabs, Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis knew and know both.

Today the kindly, compassionate side has been silenced by the increasing brutality of the other. Humanitarian treaties signed are ignored, those seeking safe havens get no hearing, no understanding. They self harm, go to their deaths unseen and un-mourned. There will soon be no place on these isles for the tortured and terrified. And our nation’s soul will be corrupted, despoiled. When she looks in the mirror Britannia will see that corruption like boils on a face.

So for our sake as much as those seeking our help, we must protect the sacred idea of sanctuary."

Bishop of Ripon & Leeds raises Sanctuary Pledge in the House of Lords

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds this week asked the Home Office Minister in the House of Lords whether he backed the Sanctuary Pledge. His response shows all the more need for us to get out there and meet with our Prospective Parliamentary Candidates...

You can read both question and answer here.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Methodist, Baptist and URC leaders urge politicians to back the Sanctuary Pledge

The leaders of the Methodist Church in Britain, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church are asking politicians to take the Sanctuary Pledge, which is an initiative of the Citizens for Sanctuary Campaign.

The Revd David Gamble, President of the British Methodist Conference, said,

“Politicians must resist the temptation to use asylum as a political football in their election campaigns. We strongly support the Sanctuary Pledge campaign’s call for politicians to campaign responsibly, and not to demean those fleeing persecution and seeking sanctuary in Britain. I hope people will ask candidates standing for election to sign the Sanctuary Pledge.”

The pledge is a commitment to campaign positively and sensitively, helping the public to understand why it is important to offer a safe haven to people fleeing persecution. It also asks politicians to support policies that will end the forced detention of children and families, and to promote awareness of the UK’s long heritage of providing a safe haven for people seeking sanctuary.

The Revd John Marsh, Moderator of the United Reformed Church, said,
“By taking this pledge, political candidates will show that they are serious about offering sanctuary to those who cannot find safety in their homelands. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, and the Citizens for Sanctuary campaign encourages us to do just that.”

“We are particularly concerned about the detention of children and young people in the asylum system,” continued the Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. “There is overwhelming evidence that holding children in detention centres is damaging to their physical and emotional wellbeing. Children are particularly vulnerable, and no matter where they are from, we all have a duty to protect them from harm. We encourage politicians from all parties will sign the pledge and commit to ending the detention of children.”

Monday, 1 March 2010

Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg calls for an end to the ‘state sponsored cruelty’ of child detention

Nick Clegg MP, leader of the Liberal Democrats, today came out strongly against the detention of children at a Social Justice Lecture organised by Sanctuary Pledge partners the Salvation Army.

A delegation of leaders from the Sanctuary Pledge campaign went along to the lecture, and asked Mr Clegg to back the Sanctuary Pledge and end the detention of children.

Referring to ‘horrific revelations’ about the treatment of women and children inside Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Mr Clegg expressed his anxiety about those who are imprisoned within the asylum system without committing a crime.

“I think that the asylum system is a source of moral shame. I cannot believe that in a country that prides itself on giving sanctuary to those that need it we are imprisoning thousands of children. This is state sponsored cruelty.”

He drew on “overwhelming evidence” of the negative impact of detention on children, including weight loss and mental trauma. Mr Clegg called on Gordon Brown to “do something really simple and ban the detention of children, which is both morally wrong and wholly unnecessary”.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

More leaders add their voice to the call to end child detention

Following from calls from authors and Jewish community leaders, other goups have written to the government demanding an end to child detention. Add your voice by visiting:

Church leaders call for end to immigration detention of children

"SIR – We are writing to express our grave concern at the findings of Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children’s Commissioner, on children detained at Yarl’s Wood (report, February 17).

We call on the Government to bring an immediate end to the unnecessary and inhumane practice of imprisoning children, babies and young people in immigration removal centres.
We note that the Children’s Commissioner, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Children’s Society and many other bodies concerned with the wellbeing of children all support an end to child detention because of the appalling effects on children. These include insomnia, bed wetting, weight loss, speech regression, depression and self-harm.
Our faith calls us to look particularly to the needs of the most vulnerable in our community. We therefore urge the Prime Minister to bring Britain in line with other Commonwealth and EU countries, which provide less harmful community-based facilities for families awaiting a decision about their future.

The Most Rev Barry Morgan
Archbishop of Wales

The Rt Rev John Packer
Bishop of Ripon and Leeds

Rev David Gamble
President of the Methodist Conference

The Rt Rev Bill Hewitt
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

The Rt Rev Patrick Lynch
Chairman, Office for Migration Policy, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Rev Inderjit S. Bhogal
Former President of the Methodist Conference

Steve Clifford
General Director, Evangelical Alliance

Lt-Col Marion Drew
Secretary for Communications, The Salvation Army

Rev Jonathan Edwards
General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain

Rev Peter Macdonald
Leader, The Iona Community

Rev John Marsh
Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church

Susan Seymour
Clerk, Meeting for Sufferings, The Religious Society of Friends

Margaret Swinson
Moderator, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

Doctors demand an end to child detention

The administrative detention of children is damaging to them, cannot be made otherwise, and is unacceptable in a civilised society. We call for the immediate cessation of this practice which is demonstrably and permanently harmful to children’s health, both in the short and long term.

We call upon the government to end the immigration detention of children and families.

Until that happens urgent steps are needed to minimise avoidable harms to children. These are as follows:

Children and young people in immigration detention should be recognised as Children in Need and given the same safeguards, such as an Initial Assessment completed within 7 days.

Primary and secondary medical care to CYP and their families should be adequately resourced and provided on the same in-reach basis as for the prison service.

GPs in the community and doctors in secondary care should consider the damaging effects of detention on children and young people and wherever necessary make representations to the immigration services to prevent children with health problems from being detained

GPs providing care for children in IRCs should be especially mindful of the damaging effects of detention on them, and intervene in a timely way to protect their health and well being, including recommending release of any child at risk of further harm. We call upon the GMC and the medical profession as a whole to support doctors who may have to defend themselves for carrying out their duties toward these children.

Actors, authors and Jewish community leaders speak out against Yarl's Wood

Groups of actors and authors have written open letters to the Guardian expressing their concerns for the issues raised in the children's comissioner's report.

Actors & Authors letter to the Guardian against detention of children
We are alarmed by the children's commissioner's latest revelations about children's suffering by arrest and incarceration at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre (Yarl's Wood children face 'extreme distress', 17 February). Disturbing cases unearthed by Sir Al Aynsley Green – reports of children forcibly separated from their parents, delays in treating a child suffering from a fracture – reflect the disregard for children's welfare that underpins the very existence of the government's detention policy.
There is no need to detain families with children. As UK Border Agency executive Dave Wood let slip last year in evidence to a parliamentary committee, the detention policy's true purpose is deterrence: "Whilst issues are raised about absconding, that is not our biggest issue. It does happen but it is not terribly easy for a family unit to abscond."
Along with hundreds of doctors who have called upon the government to stop detaining children, we believe the administrative detention of children is simply too harmful to be accepted in a civilised society. We join thousands of fellow citizens calling upon Gordon Brown to End Child Detention Now:
Sir Nicholas Hytner, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Joanna Lumley, Juliet Stevenson, Miriam Margolyes, Lenny Henry, Terry Jones, Tindy Agaba MA Law student, former child refugee, Anthony Browne Children's laureate 2009-11, Carol Ann Duffy Poet laureate, Michael Rosen Children's laureate 2007-09, Jacqueline Wilson Children's laureate 2005-07 Michael Morpurgo Children's laureate 2003-05, Anne Fine Children's laureate 2001-03, Quentin Blake Children's laureate 1999-2001, Philip Pullman, Sandi Toksvig, Nick Hornby, Michael Bond, Benjamin Zephaniah, Roger McGough, Matthew Bourne, Kamila Shamsie, Michelle Magorian, Beverley Naidoo, Lynne Reid Banks, Esther Freud, Henry Porter, Livia Firth, Natasha Walter, Emma Freud, Melly Still, Jamila Gavin, Mariella Frostrup, Anna Home, Vicky Ireland, David Wood.

Jewish community leaders letter in the Guardian
How many more appalling medical reports about the psychological damage to children in detention must we read before the Border Agency puts an end to this shameful and inhumane practice?
Which one of us would not be horrified if it was our child who had seen her mother and father arrested at dawn by police, been separated from both parents for many hours, taken in a car by uniformed men to a building surrounded by barbed wire, and locked up? And that's without even considering what traumas this child may have already experienced before coming to the UK.
As a community with a history of being refugees to Britain, we feel the plight of these families intensely. Other countries manage their asylum controls through community-based arrangements for children. For a civilised country and a modern state in 2010 to be treating children in such a cruel and cavalier way is simply unspeakable. It seems Every Child Matters – except the most vulnerable.
Dr Edie Friedman Director, Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Hannah Weisfeld Chair, Jewish Social Action Forum, Rabbi Alexandra Wright Senior rabbi, Liberal Jewish synagogue, Sarah Kaiser Director, CCJO RenéCassin, Rabbi Jeremy Gordon New London Synagogue, Rabbi Mark Goldsmith North Western Reform Synagogue.

Take action now to end child detention by visiting

Children's commisioner calls for an end to child detention

In a report into the detention of children subject to immigration control, the children's commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, has warned that children find Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, in Bedfordshire, "like being in prison". He has set out a series of recommendations to end child detention, particularly stressing the importance community-based alternatives.
Amanda Shah, of Bail for Immigration Detainees, a charity which helps represent families in Yarl's Wood, said: "The trauma experienced by children in detention comes across very strongly in this report.
"They describe being transported in caged, urine-soaked vans, separated from parents and not being allowed to go to the toilet. There is no proper provision to deal with their psychological distress, directly caused by the government's detention policies."
Take action now to end child detention by visiting

Read more at:

Monday, 8 February 2010

Senior Anglican Bishop calls for an end to the detention of children


A statement from the Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, Chair of the Urban Bishops Panel.

On 2nd February the Church celebrates the value and potential of a child’s life as we remember the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

In the UK the value and potential of many children is denied through the continued practice of detaining children in immigration detention centres. Each year over 2000 children are detained in prison-like conditions. No limit is set to the time in which children may be detained.

As Bishop of Ripon and Leeds I am aware of the impact of removal and detention on those who experience it as well as those left behind, in our schools, communities and congregations.

Children are detained through no fault of their own. They are often removed from familiar settings in sudden and alarming circumstances leaving behind friends, toys and personal possessions. Detention is a distressing experience. Child detainees experience insomnia, bed wetting, weight loss, speech regression, depression, and are known to self-harm. The children of asylum seekers are a vulnerable group, made more so by this policy which has no regard for their mental health. The experience of detention often evokes the trauma they have experience when flees their country of origin.

With the Children’s Commissioner, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of General Practitioners, the Children Society and many other bodies concerned with the well being of children I believe the continued incarceration of children to be a shameful practice for our society in terms of child welfare and human rights and must stop.

The continued detention of children must stop. I call on the Secretary of State to introduce humane-community based arrangements for children and families which recognise the need to put the welfare of children first, at the earliest opportunity.

+ John Ripon and Leeds

1st February 2010