Thursday, 30 April 2009

BBC : "Children in detention at Yarl's Wood"

Mark Easton | 11:53 UK time, Monday, 27 April 2009

What sort of country sends a dozen uniformed officers to haul innocent sleeping children out of their beds; gives them just a few minutes to pack what belongings they can grab; pushes them into stinking caged vans; drives them for hours while refusing them the chance to go to the lavatory so that they wet themselves and locks them up sometimes for weeks or months without the prospect of release and without adequate health services?

My country, apparently.

Reading the report (The Arrest and Detention of Children Subject to Immigration Control [2.4MB PDF]) from England's Children's Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, into the treatment of children and young people at the Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre near Bedford will leave many feeling ashamed.

Of course, there are no easy answers as to how Britain ensures that foreigners don't abuse our benevolence by claiming asylum without good reason. But can this conundrum ever necessitate our treating children with such cruelty?

Sir Al went into Yarl's Wood almost a year ago and spoke to staff, families and children. The centre is where many failed asylum-seekers are held before deportation. Each year, around 2,000 children are locked up there.

The testimony from the youngsters who find themselves unwittingly ensnared at the sharp end of the immigration system tells a story more resonant of a totalitarian state than of contemporary Bedfordshire.

The arrest

According to the children's accounts, some were still asleep when the arrest teams arrived - large numbers of uniformed officers who on occasion hammered on the door or even smashed it down and ran into their homes shouting.

One boy of 11 told the children's commissioner:

"There was this woman, just shouting, shouting at my sister to get up. She was in bed asleep and she's only five so she was crying and the woman just kept shouting at her. She didn't have to do that. The search was bad. Why did they have to search my sister? She is only five, what is she going to have? They touch you all over and they're rough. It's rude."
The report explains how some children described officers as taking pleasure in the family's distress, including telling them that they were "going back to their own country" and laughing and making fun of them when they showed signs of distress or anxiety.

One child said that an officer had called his mother "stupid" and laughed at her crying and distress, while others were told that it was "tough" if they didn't like the officer's attitude.

The children and young people revealed that some immigration officers had used force to control and restrain them - a finding that the children's commissioner describes as "a significant cause for concern".

Imagine what it must be like if you are a young child who has lived in the UK for many years, perhaps all your life, to be woken one morning and told you have just a few minutes to pack your stuff and get out.

That, apparently, was a common complaint of the children and families in Yarl's Wood, a procedure that the report describes as "one of the most de-humanising aspects of the arrest process".

Children were forced to leave behind their most treasured possessions such as shoes, school books, toys and music. Many would never be reunited with their belongings.

A single woman told Sir Al that she had been handcuffed in front of her children, aged one and three, after "panicking" when she was told that she had only three minutes to pack.

Another family with two children suffering from sickle-cell anaemia was prevented from collecting antibiotics and folic acid needed by the children.

The UK Border Agency, which is responsible for the system, "accepts the need to do more work around the topic of belongings that are left behind" and is reviewing the use of force and guidance on medication.

The journey

According to Lin Homer, head of the UK Border Agency speaking on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour last September: "we do not use caged vans, we use people carriers". The "Enforcement Instructions and Guidance" states:

"Families should not be transported in caged vans unless the risk assessment dictates otherwise."
But that is not what the children said. And when challenged, the agency admitted to the commissioner that "contractors do sometimes use caged vans during the 'second stage' transport of families from the reporting centre to Yarl's Wood".

This is often the longer part of the journey, with children imprisoned in vehicles "stinking of urine" and "stained" with vomit. No wonder some said that the journey made them feel like criminals or animals.

What's more, many of the children complained about the lack of "comfort breaks" on the long journeys to detention. This had led to "accidents" in some cases. A chance to go to the lavatory was apparently denied "even when the vans stopped for petrol and, on at least two or three occasions, access to a toilet was denied throughout the whole journey despite urgent requests to stop."

If a parent treated their children like this, they might well be charged with neglect.

Treatment at Yarl's Wood

Unsurprisingly, children locked up in Yarl's Wood described it as being "like a prison". Their emotional state was often fragile, their having been ripped from the life they had known with no idea what had happened to their belongings or the pets they have been forced to leave behind and without the chance to say goodbye to their friends.

"One child asked us what the time was. When we replied with the time and the day he appeared sad and told us, "Oh, I thought it was a Saturday. If it was a Saturday I would be swimming with my friends now."

This picture, drawn by one young child and reproduced in the report, says that it is 0900, "it's a Sunday and I want to play football and I support Liverpool".

The healthcare of the children at Yarl's Wood was also found to be poor, in particular the need to ensure that youngsters are protected from disease when they are returned to their country of origin.

"Preventative healthcare arrangements prior to removal, for example immunisations and the provision of malaria prophylaxis, were found to be so inadequate as to endanger children's health."
Since the visit, the private contractor which runs Yarl's Wood, Serco, has appointed a head of clinical governance and a paediatric nurse.

Sir Al's findings relate to a visit almost a year ago, a year in which the government has agreed to adopt fully the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (see previous post, UK to give up child rights opt-outs).

Article 37 of the convention states that the detention of a child "shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time".

The children's commissioner believes that this means that the government must put an end to the detention of children "for administrative purposes". He wants "an urgent review" of the system but accepts that nothing can happen immediately. (You can listen here to Sir Al on this morning's Today programme.)

The government, on the other hand, signed up to the convention confident that it would not prevent them arresting and detaining children of immigrants who were due for deportation.

While today's report welcomes recent improvements and ongoing reviews into the way children are treated by the UK Border Agency, it is not easy to see how the Home Office is going to square its obligations under the convention with its determination to be "tough" on failed asylum seekers with children. In the end, I suspect, lawyers will argue it out and a judge will decide.

UPDATE, 17:07: Following this post, the Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has commented:

"If people refuse to go home then detention becomes a necessity. We don't want to split up families, so we hold children with their parents, and while they are in our care we treat them with sensitivity and compassion.

"This inspection took place over a year ago and since then we have made even further progress, with Yarl's Wood Removal Centre praised on numerous occasions for its children's facilities - in fact Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons praised us for the 'significant progress' we have made. We now have full-time independent social workers, and a range of trained experts to monitor welfare 24 hours a day."

Article on the BBC website

International Protection

The international framework for the protection of child refugees is covered by a UN human rights treaty, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC). This convention has been ratified by almost every country in the world (including Australia on 17 December 1990) and it articulates civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights and obligations for those countries. Article 37 of this convention requires States Parties to ensure that:

  1. No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;

  2. No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

  3. Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child's best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;

  4. Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

A child's right to protection, education, recreation, medical care and humanitarian consideration are also covered in this convention.

Other international agreements relevant to the detention of refugees are the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1967 UN Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1984 UN Convention against Torture.

The UNHCR has produced guidelines for the protection and care of refugee children to assist countries around the world to implement UNHCR policy on refugee children. In recent years the UNHCR has implemented various strategies and policies that focus on refugee children outlined in a 2002 Summary Note on UNHCR's Strategy and Activities Concerning Refugee Children. Another 2002 report and the executive summary (Meeting the Needs and Protection Rights of Refugee Children: an Independent Evaluation of the Impact of UNHCR's Activities) outlines UNHCR activities and recommendations for the future.

Monday, 20 April 2009

1. Berlinweite FluchthelferInnen Parade

"Jetzt ist Feierabend! Ihr geht nach Hause - und wir über Grenzen!"

Die deutsche Bürokratie schmeißt Flüchtlingen und MigrantInnen täglich Steine in den Weg und sperrt sie ein: In Heime, Abschiebelager und Abschiebeknäste. Und am Freitagabend gehen die fleißigen HelferInnen dieses Systems dann wahrscheinlich gutgelaunt in ihr Wochenende. Unsere antirassistische Solidarität endet aber nicht am Wochenende und kennt keinen Feierabend:

Kommt zum großen Treffen aller lauten und leisen, aktiven und stillen, bunten und versteckten FluchthelferInnen. Bringt Eure Boote und Rettungsringe, doppelte Ausweise und Touri- Visa, die Perücken und die Bolzenschneider.

Treffpunkt: Am Freitag 24.4. um 17.00 Uhr an der Weltzeituhr und dann gehen wir zu Körting.

Eine de*fence Aktion der Chipini - check

Friday, 17 April 2009

Bassem Abu Rahme killed in Bil'in weekly protest

Bassem Abu Rahme was killed in Bil’in today. He was shot with new kind of tear gaz canisters (The Rocket). He was shot in his chest which lead to his death immediately. He participated in the weekly protest and was standing in the other side of the wall, and was shouting at the soldiers “we are in a nonviolent protest, there are kids and internationals” he couldn’t continue his scrim and was shot. He was transferred to Ramallah governmental hospital, but he was dead. The funeral will be tomorrow in the village of Bilin at 1:00 pm.

The gas canister (centre) is similar to the one that killed Bassem today in Bil’in. Photo: Palestine Monitor

Following Friday prayers in Bil’in today, residents held a protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on Prisoners’ Day. The demonstration was joined by the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and international activists from Belgium. The crowd marched towards the wall carrying Palestinian flags and posters calling for the release of all prisoners, especially bodies of prisoners who have died in prisons still held by the Israeli government. Protesters wore symbolic handcuffs in solidarity.

The protest was also joined by family members of prisoners. The families marched holding photos of their relatives who are in prison. The protesters expressed that the wall, settlements and Israeli-only roads in the West Bank and the ongoing siege on Gaza create cantons for Palestinians that amount to de facto prisons. Posters were also carried to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the murder of Abu Jihad and the 7th year since the arrest of political prisoner Marwan Al-Barghouti.

As soon the protest reached the wall, an Israeli army, stationed behind the wall since early morning, prevented the crowd from going through the gate. The army fired tear gas canisters to disturb the crowd, causing dozens to suffer gas inhalation and and the martyr of Basem Abu Rahme.

The Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’in stated their frustration with the ongoing and violent Israeli policies against protesters. The committee also called for Palestinians to organize demonstrations to support the threatened residents of Jerusalem and for the protection of the holy sites. Finally, the committee announces an open invitation for the 4th Annual International Conference on Non-Violent Resistance in Bil’in April 22nd to 24th, 2009.

Friday, 17 April 2009: A resident has been killed by Israeli forces during a demonstration. Basem Abu Rahme, 29 years of age, was shot in the stomach with a high-velocity tear gas projectile. The tear-gas projectile, labeled “40 mm bullet, special/long range” in Hebrew has also critically injured American national, Tristan Anderson at a demonstration in Ni’lin on 13 March 2009 when he was shot in the head from 60 meters.

Basem Abu Rahme is the 18th individual to be killed by Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Wall.

February 26th, 2004:
Muhammad Fadel Hashem Rian, age 25 and Zakaria Mahmoud ‘Eid Salem, age 28
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Biddu.

February 26th, 2004:
Abdal Rahman Abu ‘Eid, age 17
Died of a heart attack after teargas projectiles were shot into his home during a demonstration against the wall in Biddu.

February 26th, 2004:
Muhammad Da’ud Saleh Badwan, age 21
Shot during a demonstration against the wall in Biddu. Muhammad died of his wounds on March 3rd 2004.

April 16th, 2004:
Hussein Mahmoud ‘Awad ‘Alian, age 17
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Betunya.

April 18th, 2004:
Diaa’ A-Din ‘Abd al-Karim Ibrahim Abu ‘Eid, age 23
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Biddu.

April 18th, 2004:
Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14
Shot during a demonstration against the wall in Deir Abu Mash’al. Islam died of his wounds April 28th.

February 15th, 2005:
‘Alaa’ Muhammad ‘Abd a-Rahman Khalil, age 14
Shot dead while throwing stones at an Israeli vehicle driven by private security guards near the wall in Betunya.

May 4th, 2005:
Jamal Jaber Ibrahim ‘Asi, age 15 and U’dai Mufid Mahmoud ‘Asi, age 14
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Beit Liqya.

February 2nd, 2007:
Taha Muhammad Subhi al-Quljawi, age 16
Shot dead when he and two friends tried to cut the razor wire portion of the wall in the Qalandiya Refugee Camp. He was wounded in the thigh and died from loss of blood after remaining a long time in the field without being treated.

March 28th, 2007:
Muhammad Elias Mahmoud ‘Aweideh, age 15
Shot dead during a demonstration against the wall in Um a-Sharayet - Samiramis.

March 2nd, 2008:
Mahmoud Muhammad Ahmad Masalmeh, age 15
Shot when trying to cut the razor wire portion of the wall in Beit Awwa.

July 29th, 2008:
Ahmed Husan Youssef Mousa, age 10
Killed while he and several friends tried to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village.

July 30th, 2008:
Youssef Ahmed Younes Amirah, age 17
Shot in the head with rubber coated bullets during a demonstration against the wall in Ni’lin. Youssef died of his wounds August 4th 2008.

December 28th, 2009:
Arafat Khawaja, age 22
Shot in the back with live ammunition in Ni’lin during a demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza.

December 28th, 2009:
Mohammad Khawaja, age 20:
Shot in the head with live ammunition during a demonstration in Ni’lin against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Mohammad died in the hospital on December 31st 2009.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

The death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests

Ian Tomlinson, a man who walked down a street on his way home and passed police officers on the day of the G20 summit in London died several minutes later.
The early infromation about hie death was: brave police officers tried to help this man while under attack from potesters hurling bottles and stones. The early post mortem report stated "heart attack", which means natural death.
Everything looked like it was just a unhappy incident of a man dying from a heart attack while walking home.
Some day later an amateur video, which is now circulated all over the world, showed a different version: Ian is walking home with his hands in his pockets and suddenly is attacked from the back by a police man with a masked face. He is thrown to the ground, he is sitting on the ground and shouting at the police, who do not response in a helpful way. Then it's told he walked some more metres and fell down dying on his heart attack.
You would think, yeah, well he had a weak heart and died because he was much in rage due to his violent attack from that officer.

But hear now: The pathologist who did the statement on him having had a heart attack was Dr Freddy Patel, someone who got already a reprimand from the General Medical Council due to a older severe misdiagnose. Not only that this pathologist is known to get it very wrong, he was alsonot the one who should have been assigned for this job. It should have been the Forensic Pathologist Service.
So in the end it was not even a heart attack which lead to the death of Ian? But the police attack and beating itself?

The days before the G20 summit the newspapers and media was full of reports about violent protests which will shut down the whole of London - big fear stories.
In the end people didn't turn up and those who came didn't inflict large scaleviolence and distruction at all, but who did injure and may be even kill people? -
The police!
Already 120 complaints about police violence an unprovoked attacks during the G20 protestshave been collected by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The lesson to be learned:

Document and document, do not trust the police, watch your back and always prepare yourself well before going to a demonstration, never go alone and never think you are just a passer by...

Take care


Friday, 10 April 2009

Some pictures from London on March

Regents canal in Camden

Leicster Square

Anti G20 Demonstration on 28th March

Palestinian Monologues in London

Palestine Monologues is a one hour documentary piece which is on offer at no cost or very little cost to any organisation in the UK who would like to raise awareness about the occupation.

ICAHD is presenting it at the end of their AGM on April 25th at 3pm. This is an opportunity for you to come and see it in London, if you think this might be of future interest to you or your organisation. Below are the details:


PALESTINE MONOLOGUES scripted by Sonja Linden, directed by Christine Bacon,
performed by Actors for Human Rights from iceandfire theatre

A rehearsed reading of a powerful 60 minute verbatim documentary play about the occupation.

On: Saturday April 25th, at 3pm,
At: Somers Town Community Centre, 150 Ossulton St. London NW1 1EE
(nearest tube: Kings Cross - also near Euston and St Pancras)
Tickets £5.00

Limited availability so please reserve your seats by emailing by Wed April 22nd if possible.

Tales such as these, told in the words of those who experience the injustice, remind you of how powerful theatre can sometimes be, and also put a lot of things into perspective
James Hadley, Arts Council England

For information about how to book a performance of Palestine Monologues in your area

follow this link:

sonja linden
iceandfire theatre

Saturday, 4 April 2009

"German asylum policy and its deadly consequences" (1993 to 2008)

New release! 16 th updated edition of the documentation

"German asylum policy and its deadly consequences" (1993 to 2008)

An excerpt of the periodic review claims that the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were valid for everyone, not simply on paper but also as part of the "daily law in action". It is a fact that German legal reality in itself disregards the human rights of refugees and denies a self-determined, humane life and a right to residence to most by the means of special laws. Additionally, the administrative reality makes the sojourn -adhering to politically defined
objectives - unbearable to the people concerned.
Blackmail, harassment and fraud but also clan liability, family separations or the imprisonment of minors are some of the measures used by the state and its compliant employees to force refugees into "voluntary" departures.
The effects on the affected are devastating. Years without any prospects for the future and existential fear result in grave traumatizations of the refugees and their families. And when people are simply too sick to be deported and no decent physician, who announces them fit to travel, can be found the authorities hire "fit-to-fly" doctors. In exchange for a bounty, critically ill patients are cleared for deportation by such medics - contrary to all other expertise. The borders to malicious injury are crossed in this procedure and people receive injections until they
constitute no more "disturbance". Other physicians appear at the hospital bed with police at their side and give the order to let patients be carried away.

Political aim of the federal government: Refugees in the country? As few as humanly possible!

According to data published by the Federal Ministry of the Interior 130.023 people currently hold a precarious residence permit status and live under a state sponsored pressure to leave the country. Whoever cannot bear this any longer goes into hiding and tries to survive without identification. This "paperless" state - and thus, being subjected to arbitrariness and denunciation without any legal protections - is inhabited by at least half a million people.
But even the few refugees who have managed to receive a resident status are not left alone. In 2008, 5.800 people had their status revoked through cancellation procedures, and 31.000 cases are undergoing review at the moment. The terror continues for these people as well.

The documentation covers the period from 1/1/1993 to 31/12/2008.

175 refugees died on their way to the Federal Republic of Germany or at its borders,
131 of them died at the German Eastern border,
480 refugees suffered injuries crossing the borders,
295 of them at the German Eastern border

150 refugees killed themselves in the face of their impending deportation or died

trying to escape from deportation,
56 of them while in custody pending deportation

814 refugees injured themselves out of fear of deportation, in protest against

the impending deportation (risk hunger strikes) or tried to commit


492 of them in custody pending deportation

5 refugees died during deportation and
371 refugees were injured by compulsory measures or mistreatment during

their deportation,

31 refugees died in their country of origin after their deportation, and
462 refugees were mistreated and tortured by the police or military in their

country of origin or were at the risk of their lives due to severe illnesses,

70 refugees disappeared without a trace after their deportations,
14 refugees died during police assignments independent from deportation

417 were injured by the police or custody staff,

130 of them during arrest,
67 refugees were killed in fires or other attacks on refugee accommodation centres

761 refugees were injured, in part severely,

15 refugees died through racist attacks on the street and
744 people were injured.

Since 1993 at least 375 refugees have died as a result of measures taken
by the German Federal Republic -
82 people died through racist attacks and arsons on refugee accommodations.

The documentation contains two books. Both books are available for 18 Euro
plus 3.20 Euro for shipping & handling.
BOOK 1 (1993 - 1999) 6 Euro for 174 pages - BOOK 2 (2000 - 2008) 11,40 Euro
for 270 pages
plus 1.60 Euro for shipping & handling each. (15th edition currently available online)