Thursday, 13 May 2010

Hope for the Asylum Children in Detention

Yesterday I was meeting with partners from other denominations and with the Citizens for Sanctuary Team, when the news came through! John Cooper, one of our Methodist colleagues raced down to tell us that the Conservative/Lib Dem Coalition Policy document had just been published, and that it includes the commitment: "to end the detention of children for immigration purposes"!

Hundreds of voting citizens, including many of you in the churches, have been involved in keeping this appalling injustice in the field of political vision during the frantic run-up to the General Election. Our Joint Public Issues Team Christmas card campaign was one component of this democratic success story, along with the work of groups such as Outcry, End Child Detention Now, and Citizens for Sanctuary.

But we cannot afford to 'rest on our laurels'!
If you look on the various campaign websites, you will find everyone saying, "This is great, but it is still only a step in the right direction." Until we see ACTION, we cannot afford to let the matter drop.

The group who met yesterday, discussed what the alternatives to detention for these families might be. As you probably know, all the evidence suggests that asylum-seeking families with school-aged children do not 'disappear'. Their well-being depends on school and community relationships. Ideally we hope that our Coalition Government will simply put an immediate end to detaining children. Many of these parents and children live in constant fear that they will suddenly be picked up by the immigration authorities, and lose the precarious life they have begun to build in the UK. They fear, even more, being returned to the reality of their worst nightmares - torture, rape, death, grief.

We do recognise, however, that there will inevitably be some parents who have no legal grounds to remain in the UK. A few families might indeed consider absconding when they hear that they are due to be deported. Perhaps there could be some form of close community monitoring of these few? There could be other alternatives to detention, such as electronically tagging the parents, but we are very concerned that the families should not be further oppressed by substituting alternative dehumanising processes. The new Coalition Government has pledged to meet with Citizens for Sanctuary to talk over the options.

If you went to visit your MP when he or she was an aspiring Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, then thank you! It is not too late to get in contact with your MP! (MPs are just people, like you and me! As the saying goes, they are, "Unique, like every one else!") Please build on that relationship over time. While you are writing or talking to them, you could register your appreciation that this campaign message has been heard by our new political leaders. Let's keep reminding our MPs that innocent children will continue to be traumatised in immigration detention centres on British soil, until Parliament acts on their behalf.

So, a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has taken part in the campaign so far!
What an answer to prayer is this commitment!