Religious leaders call for election pledges to end child detention

By staff writers
March 25, 2010

Leaders from eighteen religious and civil society organisations in the UK joined with refugees and former child detainees in Westminster this morning to call on the Home Secretary to make an election commitment to supporting policies that will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

All candidates at the general election are being urged to back a major new campaign – the Sanctuary Pledge.

Senior leaders from the organisations supporting the Sanctuary Pledge will send letters to the Home Secretary and the principal spokespeople on Home Affairs in the other political parties.

The letter asks each spokesperson to outline what steps their party would take, if elected, to reduce sharply and ultimately to end, the detention of children and families. It also requests that they meet a delegation of leaders from the Sanctuary Pledge campaign to discuss practical steps that may be taken to end child detention following the election.

The Sanctuary Pledge calls on Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from the mainstream political parties to commit to rebuilding public support for the provision of sanctuary to refugees in the UK, and to work to end the detention of innocent children and families for immigration purposes.

The campaign has provided Obama-style community organising training to citizens in 200 battleground constituencies so they are able to persuade their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to support the Sanctuary Pledge, and hold them to account after the election.

The religious leaders involved include Bishop Patrick Lynch (Catholic Bishops’ Conference), Vivian Wineman (President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews), the Rev. Jonathan Edwards (General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain) and Bishop Christopher Chessun (Church of England).

The Rev Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: “We are particularly concerned about the detention of children and young people. There is overwhelming evidence that holding children in detention centres is damaging to their physical and emotional wellbeing. Children are particularly vulnerable and no matter where they are from, we all have a duty to protect them from harm. We encourage politicians from all parties [to] sign the Sanctuary Pledge and commit to ending the detention of children.”

Lorin Sulaiman, who was detained as a child, said: “I came to the UK as a child with my family to seek sanctuary from the regime in Syria which persecuted us because we are Kurds. We were detained by the Home Office for 10 days. Not once, was I asked if I was ok – it felt like no one cared. At 14 I should have been playing with my school friends. Instead I was locked up and prevented from going outside. We were released, and have been granted permission to stay in the UK. I know that politicians don’t really want to lock up innocent children – and that is why we are asking them to support the Sanctuary Pledge.”


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