Friday, 23 July 2010

The Gutter Press

Even by the Daily Express' extremely low standards, the paper's response (the usual mixture of exaggeration, misrepresentation and down right lies, all exploited in the pursuit of its seemingly ever more reactionary editorial line) to Nick Clegg's announcement of the imminent closure of the family unit at Yarl's Wood has surely surpassed its previously vituperative worst, out 'knee-jerking' the competition on the way. 'We need many more detention centres like Yarl's Wood' blared the headline as it set about Clegg, the government and anyone and everyone who objects to its public baiting of asylum seekers or who has the audacity to question the UK's racist immigration policy.

The level of the stupidity and ignorance on display in this article is so staggering it is difficult to know where to start. So, start we will with the 'author' of this execrable diatribe, one Ross Clark, who bears the title (or is it merely a label?) political commentator. One can immediately tell where he stands by the tenor of his language: "But for the Government to say we are not going to hold children in immigrant (sic) detention centres at all is an abdication of its responsibility to deal with illegal immigration and all the misery that it entails."

"Immigrant children" indeed! What about those children born in this country who he wants ejected? And exactly whose misery is he referring to as well? You can bet your life it is not the misery of the children he so fervently wishes to see remaining in, what is by any measurement, good old fashioned internment.

Clegg and his error are quickly dismissed as "not a quarter as bad as the policy itself." He may "soothe liberal consciences and win plaudits from groups representing asylum-seekers" but it is "the closure [that] will further disarm the Government in its losing battle against illegal immigration." Dare we repeat it again, but the majority of the people in Yarl's Wood, and especially the family unit, have not entered the country illegally. Their applications for leave to remain (asylum) have been turned down because they do not meet the government's narrow criteria.

And even if they have entered the country, it is often for the very fact that ever more draconian restricts has made almost impossible to actually apply for asylum, never mind be granted protection under international law. Obviously the Express and its ilk may very well want to see all but a very small elite group of migrants classified as 'illegal' and and prevented from entering the country, but there are still opportunities for refugees to apply for asylum whether they like it or not.

The government comes in for further kicking: "The press release [clarifying Clegg’s announcement] gives away just how ill-thought out the closure of the family unit at Yarl’s Wood is. It concludes with the words: “We are currently working to find an alternative that protects the welfare of children without undermining our immigration laws.” In other words ministers have committed themselves to the closure but don’t yet have the faintest clue how they are going to enforce the removal of illegal immigrant families now that those families are not going to be taken into custody."

Of course they "have the faintest clue [about] how they are going to enforce the removal." All they've done is announce that at some time they will not be locking up families for their own administrative convenience. They will be removed in exactly the same way they are now - chained between a couple of G4S thugs and forced onto a flight to somewhere they don't wish to go. What he implies is that not locking families up will give them the opportunity to go underground, but there is absolutely no evidence for this.

Next up in his cross-hairs are 'campaigners'; people, unlike him, who actually care about the plight of the people involved, not the racial purity of their 'beloved England'. The stupidly "focused on the small number of children who are held at any one time in the family unit" and make "somewhat pernickety complaint[s]" about the lack of education opportunities in Yarl's Wood. Why "somewhat pernickety"? Well, because "children [only] spend an average of just two weeks" there. A somewhat pathetic argument really.

To quote the November 2009 Chief Inspector of Prisons report: "Some children and babies had been detained [between May and October 2009] for considerable periods – 68 for over a month and one, a baby, for 100 days – in some cases even after social workers had indicated concerns about their and their family’s welfare." [Main recommendation #2.]

His arguments then get downright stupid: "Much play was made of the refusal of Serco, the private company that manages the centre, to allow a clergyman dressed as Father Christmas to enter last December. The decision was made on the grounds of security. Presumably liberal consciences would have seen the decision very differently had it been made on the grounds that the sight of Father Christmas would have been offensive to Muslim inmates." Or should that be 'downright racist'?

"A lot of the protests have turned out to be spurious", just like the arguments he then proceeds to put forward. "This year a group of women at the centre said they were going on hunger strike in protest at “racist” treatment yet CCTV footage revealed no cases of racism." How can CCTV footage be used to disprove racism? Were lip readers used?

And what about this? After accepting Serco's evidence that the hunger strikers visited "the centre’s shop to stock up on food – in the middle of their supposed hunger strike", it then turns to the report by Bedfordshire Local Safeguarding Children Board that claimed that unrelated children at the centre were engaging in sexual activity. "[I]f immigrant children [there he goes again] are having sex with each other at Yarl’s Wood, it is surely a reflection on their background and upbringing and would have carried on undetected had they not been incarcerated." Talk about a crass and completely unfounded supposition.

So far, so stupid. But here he really shows he has absolutely no understanding of the situation. "It isn’t children who make the decision to stow away in a lorry or otherwise make a long and dangerous journey to Britain." Clearly he thinks that the children in question have spent months in the back of lorries being smuggled halfway round the world with their parent. Either that, or he thinks that single under age children are detained in Yarl's Wood rather than, as actually happens, are looked over by local social services and foster families.

Finally, he imagines the potential consequences of the decision: "If the UK Border Agency is not allowed to hold children it will have to release entire families on to the streets. The message will soon get through: if you are going to attempt to reach Britain illegally make sure you take a child with you." Complete and utter rubbish. How can anyone one think that this is a reasonable, never mind reasoned, argument?

Well close with another quote from the same Inspectorate report into Yarl's Wood: "The people held at Yarl’s Wood are not asylum seekers with live applications, they are those whose claims have been exposed as a sham and who are waiting to be removed from the country. Half the children detained in the previous six months had been temporarily released or bailed from Yarl’s Wood. None of the five families who had been held for 28 days or more and who were discussed during a conference call held during the inspection were removed and all were eventually released. These figures called into question the justification for detaining children, sometimes for a significant period, with the inevitable distress and disruption to their lives that this entailed." [Main recommendation #2.]

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