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

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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