One thing that's always guaranteed to make me absolutely livid is the way in which it treats children in the immigration system. The UK Borders Agency lacks any sort of understanding, compassion, or ability to listen to evidence. In the last few years, I've seen appalling things happen to women and their children. I've seen an instance of a mum of a very young baby (who was a UK citizen) be separated from that breastfeeding infant for several months, which was against policy.
What is particularly iniquitous is the practice of locking up asylum seekers and their children, often to their great distress, in institutions like Dungavel and Yarl's Wood.
The Liberal Democrats have of course spoken out against this practice, with Alistair Carmichael recently commenting on a Royal Medical Colleges report that children held in this way were likely to suffer such intense mental health trauma that they could be driven to self harm and even attempted suicide. He said:
“The report by the coalition of the Royal Medical Colleges did not tell us anything new. Government Ministers appear to be quite comfortable with a policy of visiting the sins of the parent on the child. They are clearly in breach of their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Other countries manage to cope with their immigration and asylum applications without locking up children. If the government had the political will or basic compassion, there is no reason why the UK could not do likewise.”
Thanks to Duncan Stott on Twitter, I became aware of this report of critical judgment of the Government for removing children. The details are awful:
"In one case a 15 year old was detained without warning at her foster carer’s address in a dawn raid. She was handcuffed. Her removal was stopped as she managed to get in touch with her lawyers. In the other case a 16 year old also in the care of social services and placed with a foster carer was also detained in another dawn raid, but this time she was unable to contact her lawyers and was removed. She had disclosed to social services that she had experienced sexual assault previously in Italy and been forced to work as a prostitute, and the Third Country Unit knew this. On return to Italy she was held in a cell then released onto the streets with no accommodation or money.
There was no welfare assessment. The duty to safeguard children recently made binding on UKBA was obviously entirely disregarded."
It horrifies me that we think it's ok just to send children on their own, who may be settled here, to places where they won't be properly looked after. The Government should hang its head in shame.
One person who's done lots to help people fight deportation is SNP MSP Anne McLaughlin. She's currently fighting for the right of Precious and Florence Mhango to stay in this country and is appealing for people to write to the Home Secretary to ask him to use his discretion and let them stay. Read what she has to say here and please help.