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.