Please sign, share and circulate: Stop Detention of Children Asylum Seekers in the UK by the UKBA

Posted by Dr Gill Gillespie, Director, UK:


Yarlswood Detention Centre

Iranian Refugees Action Network reports that, in a recent article by Danny Shaw of the BBC (17 October 2011), figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show 697 under 18s were detained between May and August 2011 at the Port of Dover and at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

The Children’s Society, which obtained the data, said it was “horrified” and called the numbers “excessive”. The BBC reported that, of those detained, more than a quarter were travelling alone.
In July of 2010, the government said it would end detention for the children of failed asylum seekers by May of this year. This is clearly not the case, as such detentions continue.
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “We are horrified at the excessive numbers of children being held…

“We’re also concerned that detailed information isn’t being monitored centrally by the Home Office, including why they are being held, their age and critically the length of time that they were held.
“We are calling on the Home Office to launch an enquiry in to why excessive numbers of children are being held on the entry to the UK when this was clearly not intended to be the case.”

The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, has expressed concerns about the practice.

The Independent Monitoring Board recently described some detention facilities at Heathrow as “degrading”.
Please sign this petition, which will automatically send an email to William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, and Damian Green, the UK Minister for Immigration, asking for them to keep their 2010 promise and immediately end to all child detention by the UKBA. The petition also calls for appropriate psychological support and assistance for all children and their parents seeking a safe country of settlement in the UK – not in the appalling conditions in detention centres, but integration into communities where they can recover from their ordeals and contribute to society in the way they wish and deserve

Click here to sign

Very Disappointing – UK ‘Opts Out’ of Fairer Approach for Asylum

The Economic Times, 17 October 2011:

LONDON: Britain has refused to implement two asylum directives of the European Union as part of its moves to be tough on immigration and asylum seekers.

Signing up to the EU’s Reception Conditions Directive would meant Britain could allow asylum seekers to work after six months, even if their claims had been refused and they were appealing against the decision.

Immigration Minister Damian Green has informed Parliament that the UK will not be opting into the EU asylum directives.

According to him, the directives would have ‘restricted the country’s ability to run an asylum system which is both fair and efficient’.

“This Government does not support a common asylum system in Europe. That is why we have not opted in to these directives and will not opt in to any proposal which would weaken our border,” Green said.

A Home Office release said that signing up to the directives would have sent out the “wrong message, encouraging those who do not need our protection to make unfounded asylum claims”.

“It would also have required all detention to be authorised by a judge, whether or not the detainee wanted to apply for bail. This would have placed a burden on our courts and been costly for the British taxpayer,” the Home Office said in a statement.

It said that opting in to the Procedures Directive “would have jeopardised ways of working which enable the UK to manage straightforward asylum claims effectively – in particular the Detained Fast Track which provides speedy but fair decisions for asylum seekers whose claims can be decided quickly.”

Meanwhile, Iranian Refugees Action Network, and other charities, have highly skilled and qualified refugees wanting to come to the UK, which they have now been told by the UN has ‘closed its borders’ for at least this year.  These victims of torture and other human rights atrocities simply wish a safe country of resettlement, and hope the UK will consider its decision to be once again in the ‘slow lane’ of human rights.



Free Publications to assist Torture Victims

By Dr Gill Gillespie

Freedom From Torture ( are making available a wide variety of resources to help those who have been victims of torture, or those who are assisting them.

The include ‘A dozen differences to remember when working with refugee families’ by Jeremy Woodcock, and ‘Adaptation After Torture: Some Thoughts on the Long-Term Effects of Surviving a Repressive Regime’, by Caroline Gorst-Unsworth.

Iranian Refugees Action Network highly recommends those working with torture victims visit Freedom From Tortures website to avail themselves of these resources here


New Report Voicing Grave Concern About Healthcare Available to Vulnerable Refugees and Migrants

Posted by Dr Gill Gillespie

A new report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights sets out its concerns regarding the inequalities experienced in healthcare for vulnerable refugees and migrants.

The FRA’s Director, MortenKjaerum, comments:

 “Whereas it is true that other groups such as the poor and the uninsured might also be excluded from full access to healthcare in some countries, the particular conditions of migrants in an irregular situation expose them to specific health risks. These migrants can fall victim to racist crime and violence that put their lives at risk; they are also often exposed to health-impairing or life-threatening working conditions. They are more likely to work in sectors such as construction and domestic work, which have a higher incidence of workplace accidents, and are more vulnerable to exploitative working conditions and precarious housing, which in turn undermine their physical and psychological well-being.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) finds in particular that the risk of detection and deportation prevents migrants in an irregular situation from seeking healthcare, even in the countries where this is legally available.”

To read the full report, click here

No Way Forward For Afghan Asylum Seekers In Europe’s Capital

We want our life to be a normal life," says Mahboub, shown here in Brussels with his 1-year-old son

By Rikard Jozwiak of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 16 October 2011


BRUSSELS — Mahboub and his wife, Rama, fled from Afghanistan’s Helmand Province three years ago to what they thought would be a better life in Europe.

But while they no longer face threats from the Taliban, comfort has proven elusive for the couple and their growing children. They find themselves between a rock and hard place in Belgium, often spending time on the streets, their future shrouded in uncertainty.

In a cozy, one-bedroom flat in the little Belgian town of Binche, an hour’s drive south of Brussels, Rama brews some tea and prepares food for her 1-year-old son. With her 3-year-old daughter away at preschool, Rama reflects on the changes her family has seen.

The flat, she says, is the nicest place they have had since they left their home country via Pakistan in 2008. But not all is for the better.

“First, when we started our trip from Pakistan, we were thinking that now the danger is finished and we are safe and that we would have a safe life,” she says. “But when we arrived in Belgium, it was worse than Afghanistan.”

Personal Hell

From the life Rama describes in the European capital, it is clear the family did not find the promised land, but rather a kind of personal hell. The family has had three asylum applications rejected. And if their appeal of the last decision isn’t successful, they might become homeless — not for the first time.

Mahboub remembers when his family first came to Brussels three years ago. “We were put in the middle of the city and we didn’t know what to do,” he says.

“We were just shown a building where we could go and ask for asylum. When we went there, it was Christmas. We were knocking on the door and nobody came. The weather was so cold. No one was helping us. We stopped a policeman and the policeman was drunk because it was Christmastime and they were partying. It was tough.”

After a week on the streets, they found shelter at a refugee camp, then a social house, followed by a hotel room provided by the state. But it was short-lived. Once their asylum application was denied, they were thrown out and forced to go back to living on the street.

Mahboub recalls a week spent in the Gare du Nord train station, in one of the more dangerous parts of the city.

“We were put in the middle of the city and we didn’t know what to do,” says Mahboub.

​​”I remember that we didn’t have any cover to cover ourselves. It was really cold. The cover we borrowed from our neighbor,” he says.

“There were a lot of people living in Gare du Nord. We were [having] a very bad time. In the evening, we were eating some soup. The only money we had, we had to buy Pampers for the children, and milk.”

They later joined about 100 other Afghan refugees living in a derelict house in the city center, not far from the European Union government district, where they endured life with no running water, heat, or electricity. But at the urging of the Belgian authorities — who were alerted to their living conditions when other occupants began a hunger strike to remain in the country — they left the house and again applied for asylum.

No Papers

They were placed in a new social-housing project, but once again their application was rejected. Rama’s argument — that her work teaching illiterate women in Helmand had prompted the Taliban to threaten her — was deemed insufficient because she had no papers to back up the claim.

“The basic problem, in my [mind], is that they believed the papers more than words. Because they need more documents and we cannot provide it,” she says. “How can I, for example, go to the Taliban now and ask, ‘Please give me a paper that you are killing me.’ It is impossible. We cannot provide such a thing for them now.”

Since moving to Belgium, the family has converted to Christianity and fears persecution for this if they were to return to Afghanistan.

Helene Crokart, a lawyer who represents the family, says the Belgium asylum office argues that Christians are safe in Kabul and that the family can move back to the country because Rama is originally from the capital.

“The mother comes from Kabul, so [the authorities] told the family that they can perfectly well live in Kabul, and we don’t have proof that all the family was living in the village of the father,” Crokart says. “It is ridiculous because in Afghanistan it is always like this. The woman joins the family of the father and they are living in the village of the father.”

Adding to the family’s difficulties in moving forward is that, even if they wanted to return, Belgium does not return rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan.

“It is crazy because the Belgian state doesn’t want to send back people to Afghanistan because they consider it too dangerous, even for the policeman who is obliged to join the Afghan refugees when they are sent back to their country,” Crokart says.

“So they say it is too dangerous for the Belgian policemen and it is too dangerous also for the people. So we agree to say that it is impossible to send them back to their country, but [at] the same time it is possible that they decide not to give them any papers in Belgium.”

When contacted by RFE/RL, the Belgian Asylum Office said it could not comment on individual cases.

Punished For Playing By The Rules

Crokart explains that the family continues to encounter hurdles. The lawyer says she sought a different route — a procedure called 9bis that falls short of asylum but that would allow the family to stay and work in the country legally. But again, Mahboub and his family did not qualify.

While other Afghans who lived in the squat in Brussels were granted 9bis status in July, Mahboub’s decision to leave at the behest of the Belgian authorities left him with no documentation that they had ever lived there.

Mahboub feels he is being punished for trying to play by the rules. “The reason I went to the occupation was because I was on the street. I am also eligible to have the paper, but I am not fighting. I am going through [the process in a] a peaceful way. I am obeying what they say. I am obeying what they do to us, where they send us,” he says.

“Those people who started a hunger strike, it is like a war. They fight against the government and I didn’t want war.”

A further request for 9bis status has been initiated, but there is no clear timetable of when a decision might be made. Until then, the family exists on a small stipend from the state but with no possibility of finding legal work and with no certainty that their daughter can remain in preschool.

Mahboub says he would take any job to avoid living on the money supplied to him by the state, if he were only given the chance.

“I don’t know why they left us in this situation. We come here not to eat the food the people provide us,” he says. “We want to work here. We want our life to be a normal life, like the way other people are living.”

To go to Radio Free Europe’s website and article, click here