Tuesday, 19 May 2009

This is pure appalling

I've blogged a lot about the wrongness of detaining children who have not committed any crime in the UK, without trial or being told how long they will be detained for. This happens in the UK. Yes, you've heard right. Would you like your child to be detained like this? It happens to children whose parents have claimed asylum, fleeing from war, persecution and atrocities in their home countries. The last these children need is being locked up.

Until about a year ago, the process for such detentions was that families were dawn raided and taken from their homes to the nearest detention centre (Dungavel in Scotland, often to be moved on to Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire a few days later because Dungavel, thanks to public outcry at the detention of children, has a policy not to have children stay for more than 72 hours, so instead of releasing them, they get shipped to England now, where they may be detained for as long as the powers to be decide, one case, a single mum with 4 children under 6 who I knew well, was detained for 42 days before being deported). We Weegies didn't like it. There were protests, angry protests, vigils and neighbours hiding those fearing a dawn raid. So they decided about a year ago only to detain families while they sign on at the Home Office Immigration Centre. Which is only a tad better than being subjected to a dawn raid. In practice, this meant that families couldn't pack their bags, were sent to the detention centre with the mere clothes they were wearing.

Meanwhile, an alternative to detention is about to be trialled in Glasgow. This has been called for for a long long time, and finally it's about to start. It involves moving families who have come to the end of their asylum claim to a flat from where they will be removed from the country.

Then, out of the blue, last week saw a return to a dawn raid on a family in Glasgow. Fatou Gaye and her 4 year old, who were detained before, were dawn raided and sent to Dungavel. This is shocking news and utterly unnecessary for a number of reasons, the main one being that she was NOT YET AT THE END OF HER ASYLUM CLAIM. You see, it costs a lot of money to dawn raid and detain someone, and the Home Office can't legally deport her because her rights to claim asylum have not yet been exhausted. It's taxpayers money wasted (give or take 10-20K, talk about MP expenses scandal, that's peanuts compared to the cost of detention). The Unity Centre Glasgow issued the information below, which goes into much needed detail. It makes me sick that this can still happen, after all the effort put into trying to put children's interest first and constructively looking at alternatives to detention of children:

"Even more information is coming out about how Fatou Gaye was detained BEFORE she was given any opportunity to voluntarily return to her country. More questions have to be asked about why Fatou was detained.

Red Sticker or Green Sticker
As many poeple working with asylum seekers in Glasgow will know, the Home Office several months ago introduced a system of putting Red or Green stickers on people's IS96 forms.

These forms, often called "signing letters", are the official documents granting people temporary admission to the UK while their asylum case is considered and warning that they could be detained. The letter also identifies the conditions the person must conform to whilst in the UK, namely, where they must live and when and how often they should report.

When people have been to report over the last few months the Home Ofifce have created consternation by putting little Red or Green stickers on this form. When asked about this, the Home Office have explained that the stickers signify whether someone's case is "Appeal Rights Exhausted" or not ie whether the person has finished apealing their case through the Asylum & Immigration Tribunal. (Usually people can appeal their case twice through the AIT .)

Even if people are Appeal Rights Exhausted however it doesn't mean that their case is completely closed as often people can submit a second, fresh case; alternatively they can apply to the High Court / Court of Session for a Judicial Review; they could have won a reconsideration of their case in the High Court or they may have applied to the Europena Court of Human RIghts in Strasbourg or even the House of Lords. The UKBA, however, would like people to think that their case is closed and finished completely if they become Appeal Rights Exhausted, but they're not.

Fatou had Green sticker
But anyway none of that is relevant because in Fatou Gaye's case, the UKBA officials processing her signing on Tuesday put a GREEN sticker on her IS96 form signifying that on Tuesday, the last time Fatou had any contact with the Home Office before they broke down her door and dragged her and her traumatised son from his bed, the UKBA, explicitly, told Fatou her case WAS STILL GOING and NOT finished.

They are lying when they say they gave Fatou opportunities to return voluntarily, they are lying when they tried to imply that she refused REPEATEDLY not to return. How could she refuse when she didn't even know her case had finished?

Why did they detain Fatou?
More evidence is coming forward that Fatou's detention only weeks (days?) before the Alternatives to Detention project started in Glasgow may have something to do with her collecting evidence to set a precedent showing her son had been traumatised by his experience of detention in the UK. When the Home Office contacted the Glasgow office of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture to see what evidence of his PTSD there was, they were told explicitly that the person they were talking to could not give a medical diagnosis becuase they were not medically qualified to do so, they were also told that such medical evidence would be assessed at Arouna's appointment on 3rd June.

Why didn't the Home Office wait until that assessment was made? Why risk seriously damaging the health of this little boy by detaining him in such a distressing way? Setting such a precedent that showed that her son had been traumatised by his treatment by the Home Office would possibly not just opened the Home Office up to damages for his treatment but possibly every child who has been detained and that such detention, if shown to be damaging, would mean detention of children in the UK would be against the European Convention of Human Rights. "

If you're as outraged as I am, consider writing a letter to the Home Office or Fiona Hyslop. Details can be found here.

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