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UK to give up child rights opt-outs

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Mark Easton | 09:44 UK time, Friday, 19 September 2008

For 17 years British government ministers have been accused of denying human rights to one of the most vulnerable groups of children in the country - namely refugee or migrant children.

Thanks to an opt-out from parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child agreed in 1991, immigration officials have been able to lock such youngsters up for weeks or months without any judicial oversight. All it takes is a home office minister to give the nod.

Now I learn that next week, in a move that will no doubt please the rank and file at Labour's annual party conference, the UK will sign up to the convention in full.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has drafted a letter to send to the UN secretary general advising him that the government is now convinced asylum-seeking children should share the same rights as other youngsters.

The convention obliges signatories to put the "best interests" of a child first but British ministers have always argued that the rule should not apply to refugee or migrant children when there is doubt about their right to stay in the UK.

In other words - controlling immigration was more important than children's rights.

Home Office Minister Liam Byrne told Parliament last year that while the UK government honoured "the spirit" of the convention, "there are a number of instances where [putting the best interests of a child first] may prevent lawful immigration functions being carried out."

Human rights groups have heaped scorn on the UK opt-out for years. Liberty recently described it as "an international embarrassment" that "dehumanises migrant children". But ministers continued to argue that "removal of the reservation would... be used to frustrate effective immigration control."

The opt-out has made it easier for the UK Border Agency to detain migrant children for weeks or months.

Yarl's Wood detention centreMost such youngsters are held at the Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire. This week, a report from the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg, revealed that when he visited the centre in April there were 31 children incarcerated of whom 10 had been held for more than 60 days. Seven of those were under four years of age.

In December 2003, following strong criticism, the Home Office agreed that no child would be locked up for more than 28 days without weekly ministerial authorisation. However, the safeguard has not changed matters much and Britain has still found itself pilloried for its treatment of migrant children.

Unlike terrorists, whose rights are protected by a judicial process, the liberty of youngsters like Child M from Iran is in the hands of politicians. His case has been the subject of a High Court challenge which prompted the authorities to free the boy before the matter was put before a senior judge.

On his release he spoke to the BBC about his time at Yarl's Wood, watching other asylum seekers being let out while he was forced to stay. "People were being released and I thought they could go anywhere", he said. "Right from the bottom of my heart I really envied them. I kept asking Mum when are we going to be freed from here."

His mother says the little boy will always bear the emotional scars of his time held by the authorities. "It is impossible for him to forget the memory of when they raided our home and locked him in a van", she told us.

"He said to me 'Mum, they have put us in an iron cage'. I don't think he will ever get over it for the rest of his life".

It is no coincidence that the announcement will come early next week ahead of a meeting at the United Nations in Geneva when a British government delegation was to be questioned about respect for children's rights.

The UK finds it acutely uncomfortable to be ticked off by the United Nations over its human rights record and this change of heart will make the hearing a great deal more comfortable. It is not, though, a vote winner for the government.

Public anxiety over immigration remains high and there will be concern that "human rights" will be exploited by families and young people who have no right to be here.

Ministers have agreed to sign the convention only because they have been convinced that it will change very little. But even before the ink has soaked into the vellum, lawyers are considering how ratification alters the landscape of immigration law.

The key question will be whether it can be argued that the "best interests" of a migrant child are served by keeping the youngster with his or her parents in detention.

Some lawyers will argue that the child's welfare can only be protected by liberating the youngster AND their family.

There will be arguments too about the deportation of minors. The courts are likely to be busy working out what David Miliband's signature on the convention really means.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:39am on 19 Sep 2008, AlanLeon wrote:

    Once this news gets out, expect thousands of asylum seekers to arrive with their own or with borrowed children that they claim to be their own, and then demand that the whole family should be exempted for detention because of the "welfare of the child". Once they gain their release, they'll move into an area far away from where any left-liberal BBC journalist would dream of living.

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  • 2. At 10:44am on 19 Sep 2008, Colin wrote:

    What a pity that the control of immigration is now relegated to the back row regardless of whether it be children or adults. The children didn't get here of their own free will, they belong in their homeland and not brought here in the situation as third class citizens because that would be the result. The question of human rights has gone completely over the top and society is paying the price.

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  • 3. At 10:54am on 19 Sep 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #1. Normally I'm fairly liberal when it comes to immigration policies (as long as the immigrant is a net contributor to our country) but this time I'm 100% behind you.

    There is no point having an asylum or immigration policy is we can't get rid of the fraudulent applicants. In any case I can't see why asylum detention centres for kids are worse than local authority care homes. Genuine asylum seakers certainly shouldn't mind, not after what I saw in the Balkans anyway.

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  • 4. At 10:57am on 19 Sep 2008, DPanna wrote:

    Simple solution: enter the country illegally, kick them straight back out. These liberals make me sick, this has nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with completely removing border controls which is the ultimate aim of the left. Does Britain want or need millions of third world migrants?

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  • 5. At 11:02am on 19 Sep 2008, francisedwards wrote:

    The Human Rights Act isn't all its cracked up to be when 'someone' decides the definition of 'putting the best interests of a child first'.

    I was happily married, with a son who subsequently got divorced moved on but maintained a weekly all weekend contact with my son who was 3 at the time. When his mum died of cancer (I did try to get her to stop smoking but of course that is a reason for divorce these days), I wanted to look after my son full time.

    However the family justice system decides that it can ignore the Human Rights Act for 4 months whilst they decide if I have a house and childcare (all of which can be proven in a lot shorter time) which cost me personally £8000 in court costs.

    These children being denied their welfare for a mere 6 weeks is nothing compared to the family justice system in this couuntry that sets aside Human Rights for families for anything up to 6 months.

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  • 6. At 11:03am on 19 Sep 2008, holtender4life2 wrote:

    I don't really see the problem with this. According to the liberal social services the best interests of a child are ALWAYS served by keeping it with its' parents. If parents arrive here from outside the EU without the requisite work licence etc. they should be detained along with their children and put back on the next available flight home, as should all illegal immigrants. No long term detention, no 'human rights' abuse of children, no problem.

    Unfortunately we are tied into the EU and the European convention on human rights, so it is more difficult to do this with EU nationals. If we are really to get control of our borders it's about time we got rid of this legislation and allowed the best interests of OUR country to come first.

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  • 7. At 11:13am on 19 Sep 2008, Mace-xocliw wrote:

    Everyones missing the point - the UK has one of the worst records for compliance with the UN convention already. Changing the law to comply with an additional element won't change a thing - this government chooses to ignore it when it suits them - a close look at the youth justice system shows glaring anomalies. We lock up more kids than any other country in Europe, criminalise the youngest kids as well and generally treat them like adults not children.

    If the government wants to lock kids up for any reason they will. The UN are going to give them a kicking anyway and this only makes the pain a bit less. They'll just apologise and carry on as usual.

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  • 8. At 11:21am on 19 Sep 2008, JorgeG wrote:

    All this reminds me of something:

    *The cruelty that is practised by day and night on children in English prisons is incredible, except to those that have witnessed it and are aware of the brutality of the system [***]. It is the prison Board, and the system that it carries out, that is the primary source of the cruelty that is exercised on a child in prison [***]. It is supposed that because a thing is the rule it is right [***]. To shut up a child in a dimly lit cell, for twenty three hours out of the twenty-four, is an example of the cruelty of stupidity. If an individual, parent or guardian, did this to a child, he would be severely punished.*

    Oscar Wilde, Letters to the Daily Chronicle, 1897

    Over 100 years on we hear:

    *Home Office Minister Liam Byrne told Parliament last year that while the UK government honoured "the spirit" of the convention, "there are a number of instances where [putting the best interests of a child first] may prevent lawful immigration functions being carried out."*

    Not *that much* has changed from Victorian times, has it?

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  • 9. At 11:28am on 19 Sep 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    "Everyones missing the point - the UK has one of the worst records for compliance with the UN convention already"

    So why do so many illegal immigrants come to Britain is we're so very terrible then?

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  • 10. At 11:34am on 19 Sep 2008, Constable_Shoe wrote:

    Along with this, let us now adopt in full the United Nations Convention on Refugees. We have only partially observed this since its inception.

    The Convention states that a refugee MUST seek sanctuary in the first safe country that they set foot in. This is a point whose observance we have not hitherto insisted on. We should.

    Let us therefore deny access to all ‘Asylum Seekers,’ who arrive here by sea or air, unless it can be proven that their plane or boat began its journey in a country officially designated as unsafe, and has made no stops en route.

    Any Asylum seekers already resident whose records show that they fail to fit these criteria should be deported immediately, without delay, hesitation or further pointless, time-wasting appeals.

    The benefit for genuine Asylum seekers is that their cases would be processed much more quickly. The benefit for the UK taxpayer would be that we save billions a year. Only the economic migrants would lose out. Shame.

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  • 11. At 11:57am on 19 Sep 2008, sonicrat wrote:

    I think I am in full aggreement with most people in here
    asylum seekers are suposed to claim in the 1st country they arrive in . not the '' lannd of milk and honey ''
    do they not realise just how unwanted they are.
    there should be a tribuneral at the point of arrival, a decision made and enforced at once. This will save the poor kids being held in centres and save us, the British tax payers from having to keep them . If they wish to appeal, do it from their place of origin.

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  • 12. At 12:11pm on 19 Sep 2008, jon112uk wrote:

    Yes, I agree everyone's rights can only be guaranteed by liberating both the child and the parents.

    Back in their own country.

    If the process was more rapid then they would be on a plane, not sat in a detention centre

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  • 13. At 12:13pm on 19 Sep 2008, NickC wrote:

    As if the system isn't abused enough already! Their best interests are to be in a culture where they are wanted. Everybody knows that's not here. And don't give me rubbish of "they're not wanted in their home country, that's the whole reason they are seeking asylum", they're economic 'refugees' and nothing else. Citizenship should be given to children of parents born here, not simply automatically to the child for being born here. Another source of getting round the system.

    If the socialist dogooders really care, they should concentrate their efforts on going to these countries and educating them about the reality of coming here. Some of the happiest people I have met were in Uganda, living a simple life with endless smiles, but they all wanted to come to England. Boy would they be in for a shock.

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  • 14. At 12:14pm on 19 Sep 2008, Andrew Z wrote:

    This move may well please the "rank and file" - i.e. Labour activists who are ideologically committed to unrestricted Third World immigration to the UK.

    Will it please the traditional Labour voter though? A very diferent question.

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  • 15. At 12:20pm on 19 Sep 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    "citizenship should be given to children of parents born here, not simply automatically to the child for being born here."

    Its isn't. What you state is the US system. In Britain the british born child of 2 indian passport holders is Indian, not British.

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  • 16. At 12:29pm on 19 Sep 2008, NickC wrote:

    Comment. 15. Incorrect

    http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/britishcitizenship/othernationality/Britishcitizenship/borninukorqualifyingterritory/

    If you were born in a qualifying territory on or after 21 May 2002
    If you were born in a qualifying territory, you are a British citizen if either your father or mother is a British citizen.
    If neither parent is a British citizen, you will still be a British citizen if either your mother or your father was legally settled in the United Kingdom at the time of your birth.

    If you were born in the United Kingdom to parents who are not British citizens and are not legally settled here
    Even if you were born in the United Kingdom, you will not be a British citizen if neither of your parents was a British citizen or legally settled here at the time of your birth. This means you are not a British citizen if, at the time of your birth, your parents were in the country temporarily, had stayed on without permission, or had entered the country illegally and had not been given permission to stay here indefinitely.

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  • 17. At 12:38pm on 19 Sep 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    16# I don't see how my comment is wrong according to those rules: a kid born here isn't British unless one of their parents is a legal resident. The kid of two asylum applicants born here isn't british. However if it was born in the US it would be american. Citizenship certainly is not automatic upon birth in the UK.

    I suspect we're splitting hairs anyway. What we both agree upon surely is that sneaking across the channel while 9 months pregnant guarantees nothing.

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  • 18. At 12:38pm on 19 Sep 2008, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 19. At 12:47pm on 19 Sep 2008, my_comments wrote:

    It's scary think that from now on any child ( and their family ) who illegally enters the UK will be allowed to stay - no questions asked - just so long as at least 1 child is involved.

    I agree that detention conditions should be improved but to say children must never be detained, except fleetingly, is just a recipe for disaster!

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  • 20. At 12:56pm on 19 Sep 2008, JorgeG wrote:

    * BBC News home editor Mark Easton says since 1991 the British government has argued that immigration control should take priority over signing the convention.*

    I would say that in the UK immigration control and the anti-immigration backlash has taken priority over common sense.

    Reading the posts above, or those to any article on immigration, leaves any neutral observer in a state of perplexity. There seem to be two parallel realities at play here.

    The right-wing anti-immigration brigade keeps banging on about lack of border controls and uncontrolled immigration.

    The government boasts about how the UK borders and immigration system are now *one of the toughest in the world* (a boast that would almost put the old Stasi to shame).

    So who is right here? Ironically, perhaps, both. Looking at a few *facts* we see the following:

    1. As reported here, the UK has an opt-out from parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in the name of immigration control.

    2. The UK is the only EU/EEA country, out of 31 that has refused to join Schengen (the EU pillar that has done away with internal borders in the EU/EEA) in the name of *keeping control of our borders*, yet this ignores the fact that joining Schengen would equate to removing border controls with 30 EU/EEA countries but not with the 161 remaining world countries. The UK is already paying the price of staying out of Schengen in many ways, e.g. much higher border police costs, burden for business and travellers, declining overseas tourism, etc.

    This would seem self-evident proof that the UK has no *open borders* after all

    3. And yet, one of the reasons for the current anti-immigration backlash and the resulting Stasi style new e-borders / points based immigration system is the own goal scored by the government by not doing what the vast majority of EU countries did in applying transitional periods to freedom of worker movement vis-à-vis the 2004 EU entrants. As a result of this, what should have been an orderly transition of new EU entrants became a disorderly one as the floodgates were opened in too few places.

    But Mr Byrne, NuLab and Tories beware, when Germany lifts work restrictions to the 2004 EU entrants (I think in 2011) many of the Eastern Europeans still here are going to head to German factories, leaving an acute shortage, not only of BBCs (British bottom cleaners) but also skilled and semi-skilled workers such as plumbers, warehouse workers, etc.

    All the above just proves one thing: common sense, as usual, has been the first victim of the British immigration policy and debate.

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  • 21. At 1:46pm on 19 Sep 2008, Black_And_Proud wrote:

    This is going to encourage more trafficking of children in order to secure benefits and freedom for criminals. I suspect the number of genuine asylum applicants for whom Britain is the first port of call is so small as to be negligable.

    It may impress the rank and file, but it's another reason why I will not be voting Labour this time. Well done- I hope all the MPs who support this will enjoy going into the Jobcentre with the asylum seekers they support after the next election.

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  • 22. At 2:34pm on 19 Sep 2008, napolioni wrote:

    The UK does not find it acutely uncomfortable to be ticked off by the United Nations over its human rights record.

    What you possibly meant to say is that some members of the UK government found it acutely uncomfortable.

    Most of the rest of the UK were perfectly happy.

    That is probably the whole point of signing. The politicians who secretly support open borders can now hold up their hands, and say to the rest of us, "Sorry, we would like to stop them but International law prevents us taking action..."

    They will pay at the ballot box, and that would provide some solace, save for the fact that neither of the two opposition parties will correct the decision.

    It isn't democracy when the views of the majority are repeatedly ignored.

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  • 23. At 3:12pm on 19 Sep 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    "The government boasts about how the UK borders and immigration system are now *one of the toughest in the world* (a boast that would almost put the old Stasi to shame)."

    Only when we plant mines and start shooting people coming over the wall. The eurostar terminal at dover is not checkpoint charlie.

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  • 24. At 3:15pm on 19 Sep 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #20. If the borders of the rest of Europe are so great where did all those migrants in Sangatte come from? Its easy to cross from Turkey into Greece and from North Africa into Italy. The french are desperate to get rid of their illegals in Calais and letting them come to the UK is the fastest option.

    You want Schengen. Most of the rest of the UK don't.

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  • 25. At 3:24pm on 19 Sep 2008, Brian R wrote:

    Sorry we have to ' Face Facts '

    The whole system is a Complete mess.

    Under the rules Gurkhas who have fought for this Country before 1997 are not welcome but people who have never done anything for Britain can claim asylum even although they had the opportunity to claim asylum all over Europe.

    Even if they get turned down they are paying them to go home but up until recently no one was checking who had accepted payments so was free to to try their luck again - no wonder Britain is such a attractive target.

    People can fly in with a visa and then completely disappear.

    Years ago I used to live legally in Thailand and had to register where I was staying every two weeks - I had to prove I had enough money to stay there { as per the visa rules at the time } The Thai authorities know exactly when I entered and exactly when I left which did not bother me in the least as after all I was only a long term visitor to ' their Country '.

    I never claimed any benefit - I supported myself completely and a contributed to their economy by paying tax etc etc.

    Somehow the Government did not place restrictions when the EU expanded while other Countries built this into their conditions.

    At no time in my 54 Years have I ever been asked if I wanted the lifting of Strict Border controls - no one has ever asked me if I want to see Millions of extra migrants.

    its time to put a stop to all this now .

    What about my Human rights ?

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  • 26. At 4:35pm on 19 Sep 2008, j_1979- wrote:

    Great article Mr Easton. I can't believe the ignorance of the people who left their comments on this article. Do you really think that 14 year old kids who arrive in this country all by themselves after an 8 month journey from a country where they faced their parents and family being killed in front of their eyes and have nowhere else to turn to should not have the right to be supported in a safe place? What if this happened to your British child? None of the children who enter the UK alone flee their country because they want to! I am very happy that these children will now enjoy the same rights as all the lucky kids who were born in this wonderful country.

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  • 27. At 5:09pm on 19 Sep 2008, JorgeG wrote:

    #23 “The eurostar terminal at dover is not checkpoint charlie.”

    Precisely. Checkpoint Charlie is part of history, as is the Iron Curtain. *The Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain have gone, to be replaced by the Great Wall of Dover.*

    Not my words but those of one of your compatriots, although I doubt that he is a NuLab supporter.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/28b3322c-9700-11dc-b2da-0000779fd2ac.html

    #24 “You want Schengen. Most of the rest of the UK don't.”

    You seem to have a bee in your bonnet about this. Do you work for the FCO or any gov. quango?

    Where did I say at #20 that “most of the UK wants Schengen”? I was just trying to highlight the parallel realities that are self-evident from reading these posts, the contradictions in the system, the government hypocrisies and, ultimately, the astonishing lack of common sense in both HM’s gov and its opposition.

    Luckily I can count at least two UK citizens on my side. One is the writer of the article linked above. The other is this one:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a395ccd4-9fb1-11dc-8031-0000779fd2ac.html

    Astonishingly he is a Tory (ok a *Scottish* Tory, maybe that is why he supports Schengen) who writes the following:

    *It is high time this British paranoia about frontiers had a common-sense revolution and we worked with our neighbours towards a large secure area of freedom rather than a big brother-controlled internment island.*

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  • 28. At 6:20pm on 20 Sep 2008, bennitos wrote:

    I'm appauled to read this blog

    who do you lot think you are, sermonising about your 'rights' and claiming it's completely acceptable to lock children up for extended periods of time, especially given that they - as asylum seekers - may well have already experienced serious trauma.

    Given that the vast majority of asylum seekers dont know anything about uk law when they arrive ( i know this, i've worked with them) locking up children will 'deter' few people but may make the lives of many already vulnerable people a lot worse.

    grow up and stop reading the daily mail.

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  • 29. At 8:22pm on 20 Sep 2008, herbmanbob wrote:

    This realy is a very sad blog, the lack of understanding, who you are, and who they are, is amazing people think ive paid my taxes I have a right to a safe life a good life because of this. I was born here so i must be british such sad inderviduals so secure in your rights but happy to deny others because they were not born in the same dust and dirt as yourselves. But what have you given to socaity to make these claims of greatness over the needs of another. Do tell :)

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  • 30. At 9:24pm on 20 Sep 2008, achristian wrote:

    For what it's worth, this country is brilliant at passing and/or signing up to things the vast majority of the British public are vehemently against. Just another smack in the teeth for common sense.
    Afraid it's the BNP for me as the so called main stream parties are absolutely useless at combating any sort of immigration issues.

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  • 31. At 10:52pm on 20 Sep 2008, deamon138 wrote:

    #26 to #29:

    Thank you for some common sense amongst the racist mob we seem to have elsewhere in these comments. The fact that their argments are eptiomized by Mr BNP-voter number 30 makes me sick. The Daily Heil has ruined this country. They have also missed the point. The point is that the UK is not opting out from the part of the UN convention any more, thus meaning we can't just lock up all migrant children. The ke part is this:

    "The convention obliges signatories to put the "best interests" of a child first but British ministers have always argued that the rule should not apply to refugee or migrant children when there is doubt about their right to stay in the UK."

    It says that if there is doubt about their right to stay they are currently locked up until a decision is made. The difference now is that they aren't locked up, doubtful rights or not, but it is NOT a free right for them to stay in this country. They haven't just suddenly rescinded deportation! If it is discovered they don't have the right to stay, then they will be deported same as normal, the only difference is while they wait for the decision, they are free and not locked up.

    I am ashamed to call myself British the way some of these people here aren't concerned about vunerable children being abused in this country just because they are foreign. Of course, if I were so you all a picture of a dying African children you would all be reaching for your pockets, but as soon as the problem is at your doorstep, or from Eastern Europe, you hyptocritcal nazis don't want to know.

    I love how the best insults any right winger can come up against support for human rights is calling the people who do "Socialist do-gooders" or "bleeding hearts", as if they are bad things!

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  • 32. At 01:16am on 21 Sep 2008, Jeremy_I wrote:

    Reading most of these comments is deeply depressing. I thought one of the (retrospective?) reasons for fighting the Nazis was because they held and acted on exactly such views. Also, I know the education system is degraded; but are so many UK people unable to read an article properly and distinguish between not locking up children and giving permanent residence?

    By the way, the UN is not the EU.

    I would also say from experience that Schengen is a great thing and shame on little Britain for staying out, presumably so it can continue to take more immigrants than the rest of Europe while pretending to its more unpleasant and ignorant people that it is doing the opposite.

    Might I remind contributors too, that rather a lot of the modern great and good, admired and imitated of Britain, are the descendants of immigrants? In Britain's imperial heyday, this was not seen as a problem, no passports even. So perhaps this modern insularity and fascism is a mark of our national degradation, particularly morally.

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  • 33. At 01:47am on 21 Sep 2008, deamon138 wrote:

    This is a good point Jeremy. A lot of people are descended from immigrants from the recent past. You only have to watch a programme like "Who do you think you are?" to realize how many of our best and brightest are descended from immigrants.

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  • 34. At 12:37pm on 21 Sep 2008, herbmanbob wrote:

    I traced my family tree back to 1601 and was gobsmaked about were i came from :)

    my surname is Ellis Im white so feel free to guess my real nationality.

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  • 35. At 1:42pm on 21 Sep 2008, rapidAnthonygee wrote:

    It's amazing how 11 years of Labour goverment have forced people to consider voting a Tory or worst still BNP party to power, the plain truth is that the policies of Labour have made British people less tolerant than they were before, the amount of immigrants who have entered into the country in such a short period of time just havn't given the general public enough time to adjust to new Britain.
    I fear that the sentiments seen here are going to spread quickly and in many more peoples minds in the coming months as the credit crunch effects more people, would it not be better for both the immigrants coming to Britain and the british public to limit the number of entrants until there is more integration happening at street level?

    It appears to me that there is a fracturing of society happening that can only lead to troubles that are not healthy for anyone concerned.

    If Labour are not willing to do this then maybe the best option is to vote Tory, this surely must be better than a BNP goverment.

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  • 36. At 6:14pm on 21 Sep 2008, devonsongbird wrote:

    Generally a very saddening blog displaying appalling ignorance, racism and plain lack of any humanity (with some honourable exceptions)
    The fact is that UK's record on the rights of asylum seekers (who, let's remind ourselves, are by definition desperate people fleeing desperate situations including torture, rape and the witnessing of mass murder) is appalling and its treatment of child asylum seekers especially so. To those who doubt: there really are young people who travel in great hardship for months or even several years escaping horrors in their homeland that have deprived them of their families and all they know. Do you really want to compound this distress by incarceration or by returning them to the dangers they have escaped? UK locks up far too many asylum seekers, including many who pose no risk whatsoever of disappearing from official view. It's even less excusable when children are involved.

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  • 37. At 7:35pm on 21 Sep 2008, tarquin wrote:

    6 - holtender4life2

    EU nationals don't apply at all - if they are from an EU country they are basically British citizens, can't be an asylum seeker or deported

    that's an interesting story in the main article - why were the family taken from their home and put in a van? why were they here in the first place? what had they escaped?

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  • 38. At 00:47am on 22 Sep 2008, StealthTax wrote:

    All the controversy over detaining asylum seekers and economic migrants stem from the length of time it takes to process the people concerned. It should only take a matter of days (hours even) to establish that a person has no legal right to be in the UK, or that they have travelled through a safe country to get here. They should be held at the ports / airports while the facts are established and then immediately put back on a train / plane back to where they travelled from. This would avoid all the business of locking up children for weeks or months.

    There really is no point taking months over detailed investigations or contacting third world countries. What do we expect them to say? "Oh yes, we tortured that family and we will kill them if they return..."

    If we applied our own laws briskly and efficiently then economic migrants would stop coming here and the flow of asylum claims would slow to a handful, which is what the system was designed for.

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  • 39. At 1:52pm on 22 Sep 2008, Black_And_Proud wrote:

    "•32. At 01:16am on 21 Sep 2008, Jeremy_I wrote:
    Reading most of these comments is deeply depressing. I thought one of the (retrospective?) reasons for fighting the Nazis was because they held and acted on exactly such views. "

    Nah, the reason that the UK went to war was because Poland was invaded by Germany in defiance of a British ultimatum. Any other claims for it are indeed retrospective and, I would argue, very dishonest. It's all part of the simple-minded acceptance of revisionist pamphleteers and bloggers that seems so prevalent these days.

    So think again. Or start thinkng.

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  • 40. At 1:56pm on 22 Sep 2008, hammer68 wrote:

    oh how quick the bleeding hearts are to run out the racism card, BNP this Racist that!

    why must you insist that anyone who doesn't want every tom, dick and abdul putting neddless strain on our ALLREADY crowded Islands rescources.

    many of us accept that this is the country of choice for many foreign lands, what we don't accept is people being given preferencial treatment because of it.

    I welcome anyone to sample my history and culture and to join me in celebrating it. I don't welcome bleeding hearts saying that anyone and everyone should be able to come here and help themselves to our rescorces and then set up their own ministates within the country

    If you want to Immigrate you MUST intergrate

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  • 41. At 2:21pm on 22 Sep 2008, hammer68 wrote:

    just one question to the liberal left.

    If your parents die and as a result of their will, leave you a much richer person than I am (financially) and are able to live in a nicer house in a nicer county, am I entitled to help myself to your inheritance?

    No you say! but why? you are quite happy to give away my country, the one my father and grandfather died to leave to me!

    where's the difference.

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  • 42. At 4:07pm on 22 Sep 2008, becsham wrote:

    I am keen on tighter immigration controls. I believe in incarcerating people while the authorities ascertain whether they have a right to belong in my country - a right to the use of all the schools, hospitals and other public services that I have paid a large proportion of my wage for a long time to help provide (along with all the other tax payers of this country).

    I can say, with a certain degree of confidence, that I am in no way racist, nor do I have very much in common with the Nazi party. I do not believe that the white Caucasian race is superior to any other. I do not believe that having been born in Britain makes you a better person, intellectually superior, or less prone to criminal behavior. I'm also not a massive supporter of concentration camps, gas chambers, or the supposed purification of the Aryan race.

    I do however believe in the concept of 'Maximum Capacity'. I believe that when I fill a glass up to the top with water, I cannot then add Ribena without making a bit of a mess - as much as I may *ideally* like some Ribena in that glass. I may believe that the Ribena *adds* something extra to the water, improves it, changes for the better the look of the glass of water. But the simple fact is, there is not enough room for the Ribena.

    England is overcrowded. Politicians get around the numbers by only talking about the UK as a whole; large uninhabited (and often uninhabitable) parts of Scotland helping to skew the figures. Officially (at least according to Wikipedia, from estimates for 2005), the 'UK' was an almost respectable 51 in the list of the most densely populated countries in the World. Looking just at England, however, takes us to 26th. The number of reasonably-sized European nations in this top-26? 2. England, at 26, and Holland at 25. And I am yet to meet a Dutch person who doesn't strongly believe that their country is also overcrowded.

    Unfortunately, countries have a maximum capacity. There are 10 million people in Somalia. 40 million in The Sudan. I'm pretty sure that both of these places would fit in the Government's list of 'dangerous places'. If we accept everyone, indiscriminately from these countries, at what point do we stop? By closing our eyes and pretending that there isn't a problem, it isn't going away - its just getting worse for our children, and our childrens' children. What do you think getting the Tube will be like with a population of 80 million? Or trying to find a hospital bed, or wait for an operation? How large will the class sizes be in school? How much of the teachers' time will be taken up with communicating instructions in other languages?

    The Government lock up Asylum seekers not because they desperately want to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds housing and feeding them, nor to fulfill some deep desire to criminalise everyone (no matter what Liberty may contest) but because - guess what? - when their Asylum application fails, 'free' asylum seekers do not meekly turn themselves in to be sent home. They disappear. And in a country of nearly 60 million people, hiding can be pretty easy.

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  • 43. At 7:14pm on 22 Sep 2008, paulbills wrote:

    Instead of granting even more rights to even more kids, the government should be looking at abolishing the childrens rights act. Why do children have more rights than adults? This ill-thought-out legislation has made it impossible to raise children into well rounded, polite, intelligent adults, and the UK is going down the pan because of it.

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  • 44. At 01:38am on 23 Sep 2008, trogette wrote:

    Oh for goodness sake. This article is about *children.* BABIES. Babies and young children left for hours and hours without food and medications because Yarls Wood doesn't have the facilities and the staff to cater for their needs.

    Not to mention the fact that these people have come here and worked, mostly in jobs that British people have turned their noses up at, and earned and gathered possessions and found homes and then they're swooped on, which should be illegal anyway, they're not allowed to take more than a bagful with them and they're detained for so long that their house is no longer their's and anything in it is basically looted by the local authority.

    THAT is the criminal matter.

    The ignorance and NIMBY-ism shown here makes me ashamed to be British. Will someone please tell me which country is founded on a basis of generally being nice to each other? Because I'm sick of living somewhere where people are so unpleasant on a vast scale, I want to move there, and if I find it I'll gladly leave my house for the family of Baby C and others like them. If societies are judged by how they treat children, then Britains should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

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  • 45. At 01:47am on 23 Sep 2008, trogette wrote:

    #43 Why do children have more rights than adults?

    Uhm because on the whole they have less power than adults, and therefore if they are to be defended from those who would wish to wield such power over them, they need rights enshrined in law that the relevant authorities can refer to in order to maintain the child's welfare when those who should be doing that anyway, aren't.

    That's not to say that I believe, like the current government appear to (an article on the consultation document for statutory guidance on children at risk of not receiving a suitable education, and one on the issue of statutory guidance in general, if such articles don't already exist) that parents and guardians are guilty of incompetence, neglect and abuse until proven innocent, far from it.

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  • 46. At 02:05am on 23 Sep 2008, trogette wrote:

    If I can indulge the blog audience once more in the small hours tonight, I'd like to add a link.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7575681.stm
    Check the dates of the 'see also' links on the right. It is horribly both shocking and unsurprising how long this situation has been allowed to continue.

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  • 47. At 2:00pm on 23 Sep 2008, Black_And_Proud wrote:

    "• “44. At 01:38am on 23 Sep 2008, trogette wrote:
    Oh for goodness sake. This article is about *children.* BABIES. Babies and young children left for hours and hours without food and medications because Yarls Wood doesn't have the facilities and the staff to cater for their needs."

    Yes. They claim to have come from countries where they claim they feared for their lives, so you would think they would regard this as a minor inconvenience, but no...

    "Not to mention the fact that these people have come here and worked, mostly in jobs that British people have turned their noses up at, and earned and gathered possessions and found homes and then they're swooped on, which should be illegal anyway, they're not allowed to take more than a bagful with them and they're detained for so long that their house is no longer their's and anything in it is basically looted by the local authority."

    No. Some of them have come to work. Some have come to claim benefits. Some have come as a stepping stone to moving elsewhere. Some are out and out criminals. The police can raid my house at any time if they can convince a judge to give them a warrant, so why should someone who is not a British citizen have more rights in Britain than I do? The house isn't theirs either- it is likely council or housing association owned and paid for from my taxes, as is their rent, benefits, children's education, health checks and the grants they get to furnish their home.

    THAT is the criminal matter.

    "The ignorance and NIMBY-ism shown here makes me ashamed to be British. Will someone please tell me which country is founded on a basis of generally being nice to each other? Because I'm sick of living somewhere where people are so unpleasant on a vast scale, I want to move there, and if I find it I'll gladly leave my house for the family of Baby C and others like them. If societies are judged by how they treat children, then Britains should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.”

    Well, if you can find a country that matches up to your list of wants, please go there, however I suspect you will be disappointed unless you can pass the Visa test for Magical Make-Believe Land.

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  • 48. At 7:26pm on 23 Sep 2008, Val wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 49. At 00:17am on 24 Sep 2008, trogette wrote:

    "Yes. They claim to have come from countries where they claim they feared for their lives, so you would think they would regard this as a minor inconvenience, but no..."

    Hours without food for a 4 month old baby is not a minor inconvenience.

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  • 50. At 10:11am on 24 Sep 2008, jon112uk wrote:

    Interesting how quickly some people play the race card and start calling anyone who disagrees with them 'racist' or 'nazi'

    It's a modern day trump card to any argument they don't agree with.

    Of course people could easily relate some of these lefties to pol-pot or stalin - the same socialist intolerance of dissent killed tens of millions under socialist regimes from the French revolution to Mugabe.

    One of the biggest harms this government has done is the suppression of free speech and debate of their policies under the 'racism' banner. In some areas of the country it will be one of the issues that finishes them.

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  • 51. At 12:35pm on 24 Sep 2008, Phil_Bloggs wrote:

    We can always put the children to work in the mines. We were doing that to our own not so very long ago. Didnt do them any harm.

    Why do the British hate children so much? Lived on mainland Europe for some years now and find the UK attitude to children deplorable. We have a duty to protect them no matter where they come from or who brought them.

    Its time the UK learned to process 'illegals' more quickly and remove the need for long term detention.

    60 days in a detention centre for a four year old? My god, I bet he will grow up loving us.

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  • 52. At 11:00pm on 24 Sep 2008, massia wrote:

    Interesting reading folks,
    let us be civilised, we are dealing with a moral and international issue here. there are millions of refugees all over the world and only a trickle make it to Britain.
    Britain is responsible for some the mess mainly the wars that have destroyed nations and devastated lives. we are talking about Afghanistan, Iraq , Pakistani and many more and the distribution of guns all over the world (you only get the true picture if you visit the imperial war museum) these countries are currently the main sources where refugees arrived from in all three quarters of theis year. families and lives have been destroyed, and Britain must take responsibility for its activities. it is therefore very immoral and in human to imprison children for seeking sanctuary in Britain when we are responsible for their plight.
    for those arguing that refugees come ‘here’ for your grand fathers wealth; refugees are the poorest section of the population in Britain, any one who thinks that living on £47 (to which they are subjected) is luxury, i dare you to try it and experience their dilemma first hand.
    Britain has a responsibility for these children. If i must mention this, there is 5 million Britons all over the world, doing both good and bad things- the likes of glazer; therefore will your kindly mind egoistic comments

    hulleee

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  • 53. At 11:12pm on 24 Sep 2008, massia wrote:

    I bet in a generation from today, Britain will be debating a rethink about current view s/ attitude towards immigrants . it has happened on our attitudes towards people with learning disabilities and laws have been enacted to defend their rights.

    I would support any one who likened anti immigration diehards to the people who incarcerated PWLds pre 70s rethink.

    I would like to say no one is illegal; the world is for us all. If you think i am, i also think you are.

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  • 54. At 01:14am on 25 Sep 2008, BohemianbabeUK wrote:

    My mother, bless her, was a refugee from a POW camp of the Japanese who came to live in the UK, but because of the love of her kids, i don't believe should would have brang her children to the UK if she knew they would be locked up. It is the parents responsibility and choice to allow their children to go through such a thing.

    Immigrants who have not got permission to be here should be sent back with their children, end of. If anything the process should be speeded up, and facilities holding them be of comfortable standard, then the children potentially won't have to suffer, because of their parents misguided attempts to gain illegal entry into the country.

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  • 55. At 06:32am on 25 Sep 2008, scawbyman wrote:

    The children of whom we speak are often put through hell on their journey to the UK for a much longer period of time than the stay in the reasonably maintained detention facility, it is likely that for a short time the facility is actually an improvement on previous weeks accomodations.

    The UK should be proud that so many people want to came and live here, but we need to recognise that we can't acomodate them all and come up with a sensible imigration strategy

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  • 56. At 4:51pm on 25 Sep 2008, olbillgoggles wrote:

    Can we get something straight.

    Asylum Seekers are not illegal immigrants.

    Anyone who is being oppressed politically, physically or mentally by their own government or organsiations within thioer own country can seek asylum in another country. This is a fundamental human right. It has nothing to do with being illegal. The whole concept of a person being illegal is obscene.

    The UK helped draft the Unitied Nations Conventions regarding refugees, but has been abusing the convention for the last decade at least.

    I am amazed the lack of humanity shown by some of the people contibuting to this blog, Shame on you.

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  • 57. At 6:00pm on 25 Sep 2008, massia wrote:

    olibillgoggles,

    i can assure you that some people are human by mistake. dont ask me what this means, but thats how i feel.

    well done for your humane comments, at least you 've showed that there is still reminants of the proper human race.the rest are a write off so to say.

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  • 58. At 9:07pm on 25 Sep 2008, olbillgoggles wrote:

    'human by mistake' I think I know what you mean.

    How about this for ethical government? - In spite of saying they will ratify the convention, a woman and her 12 year old child were detained today in a dawn raid on their home in Leeds. They have been taken to Yarlswood while they await deportation to either Ethiopia or Eritirea, (its complicated) two of the most dangerous countries in the world.

    Words and signatures mean nothing to this government. I speak as a life long Labour supporter. If anyone takes the time to look into the way we treat some of the most disadvantaged people in the world you will, like me, be shocked and ashamed to call yourself British.

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  • 59. At 09:25am on 26 Sep 2008, olbillgoggles wrote:

    Does anyone know if the UK have actually fully ratified the convention this week?

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  • 60. At 9:10pm on 27 Apr 2009, Sasha Millwood wrote:

    It is not fair that minors are imprisoned, when they do not make the choice to come to Britain (legally or illegally) - rather it is their parents/guardian/carer/trafficker. The detention of minors for immigration offences is therefore always reprehensible, especially those under the age of criminal responsibility (that is, ten years). British children are not imprisoned if their parents commit a crime, so why are immigrant children treated any differently?

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