Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The detention of children is far from over

Upon formation, the new government claimed that it will bring an end to "the detention of children for immigration purposes." The first step in this is Damian Green's announcement that "children of failed asylum seekers will no longer be detained overnight at Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre."

Touted as a "positive outcome," what this actually means is that they will "be moved to Yarl's Wood centre in Bedfordshire which has specialist facilities and support services." For those who don't know what these "specialist services" are, I highly recommend the report titled Outsourcing Abuse (PDF) from 2008, and the more recent follow-up by Baroness O'Loan (PDF).

As Harriet Wistrich, of Birnberg Peirce & Partners, told BBC News, the reports "recognised that use of control and restraint, and the use of handcuffs, on this very vulnerable group of detainees has often been disproportionate, unnecessary and inappropriate," and "the use of force on such people can cause long-lasting damage as we have been able to prove on many occasions where civil claims have been brought and settled."

The recent Yarl's Wood hunger strike, catalysed by the extensive abuses which the report covers, only adds further doubt to the idea that this is a "positive outcome."

No Borders Brighton point out the human consequences of Green's plan;
It may have gotten you temporarily into the Scottish government's good books but that is of no comfort to people like Sehar Shebaz, who was detained on Monday with her 8 month old baby when she went to report on Monday. She had fled her violent husband in Pakistan to claim asylum in the UK, fearing for her life if she is returned to Pakistan (women who leave their husbands are under threat from his extended family and are often killed or maimed in acid attacks).

With the ending of the detention of children in Dungavel, she and her baby, like the other families detained there, were due to be moved to be moved to Yarl's Wood today. However, Ms Shebaz was refusing to cooperate with the move, claiming that her baby is too young to be forces to endure a nine hour journey in the back of a van. She herself is also ill, having been vomiting since the early hours of yesterday morning.

The response of the 'enlightened' UKBA regime? To threaten to remove her baby from her and transport them in separate vans anyway. So much for the new coalition's commitment to respecting human rights and reigning in the abuses perpetrated by the Big Brother state on people. Of course, they will claim that she is not a UK citizen but should that allow them to treat Sehar and her child any differently that they would expect them and their children?
No change or new beginning, then, in this transition from New Labour to the Con-Dem Coalition. As No Borders Brighton say in another post, "it seems like immigration bureaucracy is the same the world over: glacially slow, wilfully stupid and blind to human suffering."

See also When they said ‘We will end child detention,’ they meant ‘Keep on arresting babies’ by Clare Sambrook.