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

Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/03/gordon-brown-citizensuk-leadership-debate

Marina Hyde in the Guardian:

Michael White in the Guardian:

Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b5ee8e30-56d8-11df-aa89-00144feab49a.html?nclick_check=1

Channel 4 blog: http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/domestic_politics/party+leaders+woo+citizensampapos+group/3634722

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.