Concerns expressed over announcement of end to child detention

By staff writers
May 19, 2010
Sehar Shebaz with her daughter

Following the announcement of an end to child detention in Dungavel, a Scottish group have expressed concerns that this may just mean the transfer of the practice from Scotland to England.

They point out that Scottish asylum families might still expect to be incarcerated, but in a different place.

In particular they are highlighting the case of Sehar Shebaz and her eight month old baby who are due to be taken today (19 May) by security guards on a nine hour road journey in the back of a van to Yarls Wood Removal Centre.

In a statement, Positive Action in Housing said: “We welcome the positive announcement that the government is to end with immediate effect the practice of locking up children at Dungavel immigration removal centre in Scotland. However, we hope that the coalition government is not simply transferring the shameful practice of child detention from Scotland to England in the interim while alternatives to detention are found.

"The announcement suggests that Scottish asylum children will simply be transferred directly to England instead, therefore taking the problem off Scottish soil. If this is the case, then Scottish asylum families can still expect to be incarcerated, only they will be driven hundreds of miles away to England to be locked up. This sort of nightmare is playground talk for many asylum seekers’ children in Glasgow.

“We remain concerned about the outstanding case of Sehar Shebaz and and her eight month old baby daughter Wania, who does not travel well at all. This morning (Wednesday 20th May) Sehar and Wania are due to be taken by security guards in the back of a van on a nine hour road journey only to be detained at Yarlswood Removal Centre. This is an extremely arduous journey for such a young baby and Sehar is worried for Wania’s health.

“We therefore ask for assurances from immigration minister Damian Green that in the spirit of goodwill, he will ensure Sehar and her baby are not taken to Yarls Wood this morning and will instead be released from Dungavel immediately and allowed to return to their home in Maryhill, Glasgow on compassionate grounds pending her asylum application. Sehar has only just secured a lawyer who is about to lodge papers on her behalf. She has never tried to abscond, and has reported fortnightly as regular as clockwork to Brand Street Reporting Centre. Surely that counts in her favour?"

Sehar is unable to return to Pakistan for fear of violence from her husband’s family after she fled his domestic violence.

Campaigners say that Sehar Shabaz’s story is typical of many Pakistani women fleeing violent partners. They become stigmatised by society for leaving their husbands and it is impossible to live without fear of extreme violence by the extended family. Such violence includes the fear of acid attacks and even murder.

"Why spend thousands of pounds of tax payers' money pointlessly detaining this young mother and her baby when the government is trying to make billions of pounds in cuts? Surely Damian Green could make some cuts in a good way, by not detaining this vulnerable young woman and her baby, for example?" the statement continued.

“We welcome the comprehensive review of alternatives to child detention, including opening a dialogue with relevant stakeholders, organisations and experts. We are keen to be consulted on this. The facts speak for themselves. The alternative to detention is to allow families to remain in their accommodation while the due process of law is underway. This would be a fair alternative as asylum families are highly unlikely to abscond. This was the problem under the previous administration – spending millions of pounds being seen to be tough on some of the most vulnerable groups in our society when those groups were never likely to abscond in the first place."

Positive Action in Housing Ltd is a Scotland-wide charity working with communities, housing providers, voluntary organisations and faith groups. It runs a Hardship Fund and provides emergency shelter and practical resources for destitute asylum seekers and their families.


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