Thursday, 24 March 2011

Pre-Departure Accommodation Planning Application Approved



Despite noisy protests outside, Mid Sussex Council District Planning Committee today gave a green light to the continued detention of children and families when they approved by 14 votes to 1 the UK Border Agency's application [1] to turn Crawley Forest School in Pease Pottage into a Pre-Departure Accommodation centre.

Opponents of child detention, including SOAS Detainee Support, Brighton No Borders and No Borders London, branded the decision "disgraceful" and vowed to continue the fight against the centre and the companies involved in designing and running it.

From the start of the Planning Committee meeting it was apparent that the majority of councillors were much more concerned about the colour of the internal fences and whether a "majestic beech tree" would be "protected from the children climbing on it " than the exact nature of the regime operating the facility, the level of security and how little it differed from current forms of family detention. [2]

Ian Bros, one of the formal objectors at the planning meeting, says that the involvement of children's charity Barnado's in the centre, which has much been trumpeted by the government, almost single-handedly swung the application in the UKBA's favour. Whilst Barnado's will run play facilities at the centre, the facility itself will be run by global security giant G4S, who are threatened with corporate manslaughter charges for the death of a detainee in their care last year [3]. G4S did not get a single mention in the meeting, Ian noted, and the councillors present "seemingly believed that Barnado's will take charge of the whole centre".


Notes for editors:
[1] See:

[2] The UKBA has portrayed the Pre-Departure Accommodation Centre as a new form of Planning Use and, as such, should be considered a Sui Generis Use, whereas objectors point out that the facility more closely resembles a Category D Open Prison-style facility. See:

[3] See:

[Alec Smart]

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Fit To Fly?

"Fit to fly" is a short film by Martin Freeth about the work of Medical Justice.

Watch the film

Monday, 21 March 2011

Down And Out In Lampedusa

Whilst the situation in Libya has been holding the world's attention, the fall out from the fighting and the uprising in Tunisia earlier on in the year has only, in the form of refugees arriving in Europe, has only intermittently made it into the press. Landfall for most of these refugees, just as it has been for decades, is the tiny island of Lampedusa 130 km off the Tunisian coast and 300 km from the Libyan capital Tripoli. In the past couple of years, since Berlusconi struck a deal with his then close friend Gaddafi to prevent the passage of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe, the so-called 'push back policy', the flow had dropped to almost zero (the Tunisian authorities had also had a fairly strict policy of preventing the flow of refugees from its territory). Now it has turned into a deluge and Lampedusa is suffering its own humanitarian crisis.

In the wake of the Tunisian uprising in January, 5,600 Tunisian refugees arrived on the Island over the course of a few days in February, an island with a population of only 4,500. And there are currently around 5,000 Tunisian and Libyan refugees on the Island again today, with hundreds arriving each day. Here is a quick run down of some of the events in the past 2 weeks based on news reports and verbal accounts from an activist on the Island:

14 March - 22 landings on the Island with 1623 people arriving in a 24 hour period. Plus another boat is known to have capsized in Tunisian waters - 5 rescued with approximately 35 refugees unaccounted for, presumed drown. Neo-fascists Marine Le Pen, Front National presidential candidate, and Mario Borghezio, an Italian Northern League MEP also turned up to garner a bit of publicity and were greeted by a demonstration of 30 locals, who made it plain to them that they were not welcome.
15 March - 2,500 refugees currently on Lampedusa but no new arrivals due to bad weather.
16 March - Stefania Craxi, the Under-secretary for Foreign Affairs, visited to see the situation at first hand, warning that the rest of Europe would have to help out Italy. Interestingly, she was a prominent apologist for Ben Ali when he fled Tunisia, claiming that Italy should have granted him asylum. She even claimed that he was not a dictator, even though it was her father, then Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, helped Ben Ali seize power in 1987. No doubt she was seeking to return Ben Ali’s favour when he sheltered Craxi Snr. after he fled Italy to avoid criminal charges in 1984?
Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni quoted as saying that 11,200, mostly Tunisian immigrants, had arrived in Lampedusa since the start of this year.
17 March - Lampedusa residents block the landing of 4 boats with around 200 refugees on board in the harbour. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees the refugee facility on the Island designed for 850 is currently housing 2,600.There are a number of women and many minors amongst the refugees. They sleep everywhere: two in every beds, under the beds, outside, in any space available, so that there is no space even to walk. They do not have blankets. There is no water to shower. They are given a bottle of water to wash themselves. There is not much food. They have to queue up for hours and sometimes the food finishes before they arrive at the end of the queue and when they eat it they immediately want to sleep.
18 March - Lampedusa's residents again prevent a boat with 116 people on board from landing during daylight hours. Over night 3 boats with 378 people arrived.
20 March - 12 boats with a total of 1,350 refugees arrive, with a further 117 arriving at Catania in Sicily.
"Sunday we woke up around 7 am because someone was shouting from a megaphone on a car telling people to go and occupy the port to stop the arrival of red cross tents, probably for at least 10,000 people. The woman at the megaphone is one of the locals that want to save the [tourist] economy in Lampedusa and want the Tunisian [to be] transferred elsewhere in Italy. We went there to check what was happening. The people of Lampedusa always try to explain to the Tunisians that they are not against them and they just want them to be transferred quickly anywhere else in Italy. They also wanted the Tunisians to join but most of them were too scared to get in trouble."
"In the end they had to let them unload the tents because otherwise the ferry would not leave with their fish and it would have been a problem for the many fishermen on the Island."

Currently there are around a thousand Tunisians sleeping rough in the port area, many with wet clothes and no blankets, almost no food and only 1 litre of milk a day between 5 people. Many are falling ill from being cold and constantly wet (it has also been raining and there is little shelter). Local police have been giving many of them their waterproofs and their lunch too. "A whole family with a small kid, some minors and some very young women arrived. They brought the women and the minors into a building [owned by] the council. I saw them arriving. Many were walking bare foot and were half naked."

Many of the refugees had taken part in anti-government demonstrations and who had been arrested and beaten and are afraid because Ben Ali's cronies are still in charge in Tunisian despite the Jasmine revolution. Consequently they have good asylum cases but there is little legal advice available on their rights to asylum. Many also say they just want to reach their relatives in France or just want a job, both of which will hold no sway with the authorities and is certain to get them locked up in a camp and deported.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

More On Barnardo's And The Continued Detention Of Children

A repost of a National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns news item:

Children’s charity Barnardo’s have been contracted by the Home Office as a service provider at the new families detention centre at Pease Pottage, Sussex. The secure “pre-departure accommodation” is widely seen as detention re-packaged, and Barnardo’s role in the centre – which could see over 6,000 children a year detained – is controversial.

Chief Executive Anne-Marie Carrie, refused to condemn the practice of child detention on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, arguing that Barnardo’s are best placed to help in the running of the new centre, described by the Immigration Minister as having “an entirely different look and feel to an immigration removal centre”.

However, Heaven Crawley, professor of international migration at Swansea University, said on the Today programme the that new process is “really something of a repackaging”. Writing for the Migrants’ Rights Network blog today, Professor Crawley claims that to repackage detention as ‘pre-departure accommodation’ is disingenuous. “Families with children will be taken to the facility against their will. Once there, families will not be allowed to come and go freely. The unit is intended to be secure, which in this case means a 2.5m palisade fence with electronic gates surrounding the site, and 24-hour staffing designed to provide ‘an appropriate level of security to protect the occupants of the site and deter them leaving the site’.” She also calls on the government to come clean – if it can’t end child detention then it should say so. In fact, earlier this week in Parliament, the Immigration Minister did let slip that detention of children at Tinsley House immigration Removal Centre would indeed continue for “high risk families”.

Without doubt, the routine use of force and detention of children and families over the years has been shameful. As reported in the Free Movement legal blog, a High Court judgement in January revealed just how disgraceful practice has been. The case of R (on the application of Suppiah) v Secretary of State for the Home Department demonstrated that, despite overwhelming evidence that detention is harmful to children, UKBA officials ignored even their own guidelines on detaining only as a last resort. Alternatives were not pursued, UKBA claims of offering assisted voluntary removal prior to detention were untrue, and excessively long periods of detention were being used needlessly.

Sadly, no officials have been or will be brought to book for the false imprisonment of children and families under the previous Labour government. It is all water under the bridge since the coalition announced plans to reform the detention system for families.

It is yet to be seen whether the involvement of one of the country’s leading children’s’ charities will significantly improve the lot of detained children, or merely serve to help the coalition government with it’s public relations exercise.

The fact remains that children are still to be detained, and force is still to be used against families to remove them from the UK. The asylum system still operates a culture of disbelief, resulting in a high percentage of refugees being sent back to persecution.

And a question remains unanswered: just what do have we to fear from these families that we must hunt them down, lock them up and forcibly deport them? Families who have fled persecution, war or poverty, and come to the UK to make a better life for themselves and their children, should be allowed to live in safety for as long as they want to. Many would return to their home countries when it is safe, others would settle and their children grow to become part of our ever-changing society.

But as for detention, we can leave the final words to the previous Chief Executive of Barnado’s, Martin Narey, speaking in December 2010 in support of the government’s claim to have abolished detention of children:

“Incarcerating [children] simply because they have parents who wish to live here was unnecessary, expensive and more to the point, just plain wrong.” former Barnados Chief Executive, Martin Narey


Barnardo's won't lessen trauma of child detention - Guardian Comment Is Free article.

'Accommodation centre' rebrand fury - Morning Star.

No Borders oppose new deportation centre - Institute of Race Relations.

Promises, Promises - End Child Detention Now.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Barnado's Legitimise The Continued Detention Of Children


The children's charity Barnardo's is legitimising the continued use of detention for children by agreeing to provide welfare services at a "pre-departure accommodation" centre the government plans to open in Pease Pottage near Crawley in Sussex.

The Home Office and UK Border Agency claim that this facility will be 'open non-detention accommodation' [1] and, as such, they are seeking to persuade the Mid Sussex District Planning Committee that their Change of Use planning application is a sui generis use [2], falling outside of other current planning guideline Classes.

However, careful consideration of the limited publicly available information [3] on how the facility will operate shows that it will in fact closely resemble current Immigration Removal Centres and Short Term Holding Facilities in many facets:
· children and families will be arrested and administratively detained under the provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act when being move to and from this 'Pre-Departure Accommodation'; [3a]
· they will be subject to the Control and Restraint techniques used across the detention estate; and [3a]
· the detained children will only be allowed out of the facility under strictly controlled circumstances. [3b]
Clearly this amounts to the continued use of "the detention of children for immigration purposes".

According to the BBC [4] which has seen an advanced copy of a speech from Barnado's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie, the charity will seek to justify its participation in this controversial project. Ian Bros of No Borders Brighton, who is formally objecting to the planning application, states Barnado's: "may seek to rationalise its proposed work at the facility as helping to hold the Home Office to its commitment to run a more humane removal system, but it cannot escape from the fact that this is a detention centre in all but name. In fact Anne Marie Carrie has given the lie to the government's position that this is not a detention centre by calling it 'secure pre-departure accommodation' in her proposed speech. This is clearly a Class C2A [Secure Residential Accommodation] use, just as all Immigration Removal Centres are classed and as such the Mid Sussex Council should reject this planning application as incorrectly filed."

Ian concludes: "It is bad enough that the Home Office are trying to rush this whole project through the planning process, ignoring EU competitive tendering process, and restricting public access to the planning application itself under catch-all security considerations, but to rope a respected charity in as its PR-patsy must really win some prize in the annals of government spin."

London NoBorders,
No Borders Brighton,

Notes to Editors:

[1] See CgMs Consulting letter to Pease Pottage residents on behalf of the Home Office:
[2] See the planning application:
[3] See:
[a] the current UK Border Agency's Enforcement Instructions and Guidance Chapter 45 Family Cases:
[b] and the Planning Statement:
[4] See:

Barnardo's To 'Front' New Detention Centre

In a surprising PR coup, the Home Office have managed to persuade Barnardo's, the children's charity, to run the welfare side of the new children and families detention-lite centre near Crawley. This facility, as we have steadfastly been arguing, singularly fails to meet the Coalition's promise to end the detention of children for immigration purposes, as the charity's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie concedes when (in the text of a speech today released to the BBC) she describes this pre-departure accommodation as "secure". It doesn't matter what the sign on the facility's fence says, whether it describes it as 'Open Accommodation - As Approved By Barnardo's', it the people held there are detained under the powers contained in the Immigration Act 1971 and are not free to leave the facility at any time, taking their children with them, then it is no better than the Families Unit at Yarl's Wood, no matter how many toys Barnardo's supply the place with.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Latest Greek Travel Advice

10th of March: Worldwide solidarity action day with the 300 hunger strikers immigrants-workers in Greece.

Latest Greece travel advice:

You might have heard that Greece is a beautiful country to visit with delicious food and people with great hospitality. Be careful: this is not the whole truth. The reality for hundreds of thousands of visitors is completely different. There is a general threat of human rights’ violations. Expatriates and visitors, who cross the Greek borders, can be departed or transferred in detention centres for 2–4 months or longer. If and when these visitors are released, they are forced to work in agriculture, local industry, organised crime, or as street salesmen, without documents or any civil rights whatsoever. Visitors of Greece are warned about abuse, intolerance, hatred, slander and indiscriminate violence by the Greek State.

Greece is exploiting approximately 500,000 illegal immigrants and refugees to raise the nation’s miserable economics. Last year, nearly 140,000 immigrants crossed the Greek borders in a hope of better life. Most of them are going to remain illegal for years and treated as unwelcome contemporary slaves.

Since the 25th of January, 300 immigrants who work and live in Greece for many years started a nationwide hunger strike in Athens and Thessaloniki. They claim the legalisation of all undocumented immigrants of Greece. Their struggle is a struggle of all immigrants, workers and citizens of the world.

The 10th of March will be the 45th day of their hunger strike, but the Greek State has not yet responded to their rightful claims!

We call people in Greece and throughout the world to carry out civil disobedience actions on the 10th of March in solidarity with the 300 hunger strikers. We ask everyone to target their actions against Greek soft spot-tourism: 15% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product is coming from tourism. In fact, tourism and migration are two sides of the legal right of freedom of movement.
We suggest an easily attainable target that you people can find almost in every country: Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO). You can e.g. demonstrate, blockade, squat, spread leaflets or carry out other creative actions in front, inside or around GNTO offices.

The addresses of the GNTO offices aboard are here:

If you don't have a GNTO office at your city, you can target your actions against the Greek embassies or enterprises, or simply demonstrate in crowded public places or on media.


More information about the hunger strike of 300:

'All Immigrants of the World'

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding To Be Bulldozed?

Eviction cost already skyrocketing as groups announce human rights shield.

Dale Farm, Europe's largest Traveller community, and one featured in the TV series ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, faces imminent eviction. Traveller representatives have been told that 28 days notice of eviction will be served on them on 14 March. Dale Farm is a former scrapyard in Basildon, and is owned by the Travellers. It consists of 100 family plots, half of which are set to be demolished.

In response, human rights groups have announced that they will be setting up a full-scale human rights monitoring camp at Dale Farm, before the eviction notice expires on 9 April. Hundreds of activists have pledged to form a human shield around the site to prevent bulldozers from demolishing homes.

Costs for the planned eviction are already skyrocketing. Basildon District Council has set aside 8 million pounds for the eviction itself and estimates that another 10 million pounds will be required. Their application to have the Home Office foot the bill has just been turned down. Taxpayers have already contributed £2.5 million to the Council’s legal and other related costs.

Ironically, the eviction costs are being blamed as one of the reasons why Basildon Council is controversially selling off playing fields in the green belt, and allowing developers to build on them to increase their value. The Council also looks set to announce a bank loan to cover the eviction bill at a special council meeting on March 14th. The skyrocketing costs are coming at a time when as many as 100 Basildon Council jobs are likely to be axed to help the borough cope with budget cuts which will leave it £2.3million short. Basildon is also cutting £505,000 to disabled services.

"Dale Farm residents are willing to move, at no cost to Basildon, but need the Council to identify suitable land," said Richard Sheridan, chair of the Gypsy Council. However this seems increasingly unlikely, as Council leader Tony Ball has promised to resign if the Traveller's are not evicted before the 5 May council elections. There is an obligation under international law for government to find suitable alternative accommodation for those being forcibly evicted.

"When we can find £18 million to evict families from their own land but can't find the funds to keep nurseries, libraries and youth centres open, something has gone terribly wrong," said Natalie Fox from Dale Farm Solidarity. The group is organising human rights monitors to stay at Dale Farm should their be an eviction. She called the eviction "ethnic cleansing", noting that 90% of traveller planning applications are initially rejected compared to 20% overall.

The eviction comes at a time of increased repression of Romani and Traveller communities in France and Italy. The eviction, which is expected to last up to three weeks will drive many Travellers back onto the road and their children will be forced to leave school.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated that ‘the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights’. They went on to say that ‘to be persistently threatened or actually victimized by the act of forced eviction from one’s home or land is surely one of the most supreme injustices any individual, family, household or community can face’.


On behalf of
Dale Farm Solidarity: Yoshka Pundrik (07583761462)
Dale Farm Housing Association: Grattan Puxton (07888699256)
On behalf of Dale Farm:
Mr Richard Sheridan, chair of The Gypsy Council (07747417711)
Mary Ann McCarthy (07961854023)

Notes for Editors

[1] Although being a runaway hit, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding has been criticised by some in the Traveller community for it's biased portrayal of their lives:

[2] 90% of Traveller planning applications are initially rejected compared to 20% overall -- Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) (2006). Common Ground: Equality, good race relations and sites for Gypsies and Irish Travellers: Report of a CRE inquiry in England and Wales. London: CRE.

[3] In order to cover the cost of the eviction, Basildon council is selling off playing fields to cover the cost:

Axing 100 staff:

and cutting disabled services:

[4] For a list of some of the expenditures, see:

[5] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights General Comment No. 7 on forced evictions, see:

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

UKBA Announce Start Of New Families Removals Process

The Border Agency has announce the start of their "radical new process for managing the return of families found to have no right to be in the UK." According to their press release, the 'options' available under this scheme "will include a form of limited notice removal, the use of open accommodation, and - as a last resort where families resolutely fail to comply, family friendly, pre-departure accommodation", the latter being the type of facility the Home Office is currently trying to open in Pease Pottage.

The latter is part of the third and final option available for the removal of the families of refused asylum seekers - an Ensured Return, where the new constituted Family Returns Panel "advise the UK Border Agency on return plans to ensure the welfare of the child is taken properly into account" according to this latest piece of government spin on its policy. This Panel will apparently "provide expert advice to the UK Border Agency on the best method of ensuring the return of individual families, taking into account the specific welfare needs of children."

And just how 'radical' and family-centric is this new policy and how far does it really go in "taking into account the specific welfare needs of children"? Well, according to Immigration Minister Damian Green, "(a)t every stage of the process, we expect families to leave voluntarily" and that the government "will be trying to ensure that families can remain in the community prior to their departure home." Yet if these families fail to agree with any of the voluntary options offered during 'family conferences', it appears almost inevitably that they will end up being detained in a dawn raid on their home by UKBA officials and they will be removed to one of these 'pre-departure accommodation' facilities, in much the same way as they have been taken to other existing Immigration Removal Centres up til now.

Not that this is expressly laid out in the 'Open Accommodation' policy document ['Open Accommodation: Accommodating Families Outside Of Detention'] [1], which appears to essays a never-ending circus of 'non-cooperating' families who fail to take up the Agency's 'offer' at any point ending up facing yet another return to the Family Returns Panel. Thus, a family that has failed to take up a first stage Assisted Voluntary Returns package, will either be given 2 weeks notice to leave the country ('Required Return') or go straight to 'Open Accommodation' [not passing go and not collecting their plane tickets and a helpful escort to the airport] if they are considered unlikely to cooperate i.e. are 'flight risks': "We consider that moving such families out of their existing accommodation and away from community links and ties they have built up will signal to them that they have reached the end of the road and enable them to understand that their removal will happen." This means offering them transport to the 'open accommodation' and, if refused, the Borders Agency ending all form of support including accommodation and vouchers, effectively making them homeless and with no access any other form of transportation, [2] plus a referral back to the Board.

Accepting the move to the 'pre-departure accommodation' is the next stage which the government hope will inevitably end in the family 'voluntarily' removing themselves (something they have obviously failed to do at either of the two previous stages of the process) within 3-28 days. If they have not left the country within 72 hours, it's back to the Panel again. "[T]he overall length of stay at the accommodation will be capped at 28 days" and after that families will apparently be moved back to "section 95/section 4 accommodation" i.e. stage one of the process. "However, there may be circumstances where the family seek to prevent their removal and the resulting delay pushes their case over the 28 days which we consider it reasonable for them to be in open accommodation for. This may be beyond our control." This interestingly contradicts the CgMs letter to Pease Pottage residents about the first such 'pre-departure accommodation' facility which states that "(i)n exceptional cases they might be held for up to one week but linked to a specific date when they will leave the UK." [3]

And just how much compulsion is involved in all this? Well the government has carefully chosen its language and has given a number of mixed messages, such as: "there will be some circumstances where families will be REQUIRED to move to temporary NON-DETAINED accommodation facilities prior to removal" [our emphasis] and claimed that "(o)pen accommodation is a non-detained residence where families will be FREE TO COME AND GO AS THEY PLEASE". [4] Yet careful reading of all the documents and of the plans for the Pease Pottage facility clearly show that compulsion is de facto a central factor in this scheme and that this form of accommodation is far from being 'open' in any meaningful use of the word.

That Sarah Teather, the Minister of State for Children and Families, has the gall to claim that this policy "shows real progress on our commitment to reform the returns process for families", "putting compassion and children's welfare at the heart of these new arrangements", only shows how much the Coalition has swallowed their own propaganda hock, line and sinker.

[1] Chapter45 of the latest version of the UK Border Agency Enforcement Instructions and Guidance, the manual for UKBA immigration operations, has been updated to include the new Family Cases strategy and that continues to expressly states that: "All family members, including children, SHOULD BE ARRESTED AS A WHOLE UNIT and the arrest should be made as soon as practicable, TO ENSURE THAT THE FAMILY IS LEGALLY IN IMMIGRATION CUSTODY FOR CONVEYANCE TO THE PORT OF DEPARTURE OR TO PRE-DEPARTURE ACCOMMODATION. It will normally be that arrests in such circumstances will be under administrative powers contained in paragraph 17 of schedule 2 of the 1971 Act and not under criminal powers." [Section 45.10 Control and Restraint] [our emphasis]
[2] "It may be the case that some families will argue that termination of their existing accommodation support will leave them destitute. However, we are not proposing denying access to support. Accommodation support remains available – but only within an open accommodation facility."
[3] However, the 'Open Accommodation' document only refers to the Thornton Heath pilot scheme, which differs in significant areas such as security and accessibility from the planned Pease Pottage facility.
[4]NB: The CgMs letter to Pease Pottage residents on behalf of the Arora/Home Office consortium planning the first 'pre-departure accommodation' only make reference to children being "permitted to leave the facility for short periods" and that "(s)taffing levels, their expertise and the environment of the accommodation [providing] the appropriate security for the facility."