Clegg seeks end to `the scandal’
15th December 2009: Just over a month after the Scottish National Party called for an end to the detention of children in the removal homes, Prime Minister Gordon Brown came under fire for not scraping the controversial asylum policy.
Launching an attack on the policy, and Brown’s failure to get it scrapped Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said it would see hundreds of innocent children spend Christmas behind bars. How can the Government justify “state sponsored cruelty”? Clegg has questioned.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Clegg asked him to initiate immediate steps for terminating the policy of locking up the children of families facing possible deportation.
The letter comes soon after the Scottish National Party’s call was backed by the Commons committee.
The home affairs select committee had in November end made clear its stand on the issue, clearly throwing its weight behind the Scottish Government and parliament. In its report, the committee had clearly recommended the power to detain children should be used only sparingly; and as a last resort and for the shortest possible time.
Claiming the policy ‘shamed Britain’, Clegg said it did nothing to tackle the problem of illegal asylum seekers.
He asserted: “I am writing to urge you to stop the scandal of hundreds of very young children, including toddlers, spending this Christmas locked up behind bars in Immigration Centres in Britain.
“One of the best ways to judge the moral compass of a nation is how we treat children – all children.
“There is now concrete evidence that the very young children who find themselves locked up even though they’ve done nothing wrong are suffering weight loss, post traumatic stress disorder and long lasting mental distress.
“How on earth can your Government justify what is in effect state sponsored cruelty?
“Of course we must keep track of adults who are seeking asylum in this country, and deport them where justified. But this can be done through other means.
“It is simply indefensible to do so at the cost of the mental and physical wellbeing of very young children.
“I would also ask you to lift the paranoid Government secrecy which surrounds the work of the Immigration Centres. Your Government has consistently refused to provide total figures of the number of children detained.
“This attempt to cover up such a morally reprehensible practice only makes matters worse.
“The British people want us to take a world lead in the way we treat toddlers and children, not to inflict systematic cruelty on them behind a veil of Government secrecy”.