Archive for the ‘children’ Category


Ice and Fire perform the Asylum Monologues in Salisbury

Asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees get a poor press in the United Kingdom especially at the tabloid end of the market.  They are

Daily Express front page: 2014

described in biblical terms as ‘flooding’ into the country, of consuming a large part of the benefits budget, taking jobs and houses from British people and driving down wages.  Immigrants and asylum seekers are labelled ‘illegal’ and a picture is constantly painted of crisis levels of immigration doing harm to the country.  A Daily Express front page is illustrated but many such pages and headlines could be here instead.  It cannot be denied that there are problems arising from immigration but the lack of balance in the reporting is to be regretted.

The benefits brought to the nation rarely get a mention.  Indeed, it was revealed by Sir Vince Cable recently that Theresa May, as Home Secretary, suppressed nine reports showing such benefits.  On balance the economy of the country is in credit as far as the effect of immigrants are concerned.

Ice and Fire

Asylum seekers (who are never illegal asylum seekers) are part of those seeking to settle here.  On Monday 18 September 2017, Ice and Fire performed Asylum Monologues at Sarum College in the Close.  Ice and Fire are a group of actors who tour the country and read testimonies from people who have experienced traumatic events in their home countries who have made it to this country and are seeking asylum.  The testimonies change over time as new events unfold.

Ice and Fire. L to r: Liz; Chris & Emily. Pic: Salisbury Anesty

The first testimony was of a woman who left Uganda.  She had campaigned for women’s rights.  To do so risked being called a ‘rebel’.  Then 20 soldiers arrived in the village one day and took her to an army prison.  There she was severely mistreated, tortured and raped in front of her husband.  After 4 months she – along with four others – managed to escape three of whom were shot.  Recaptured, she was taken to a ‘safe’ house which was quite the opposite for its inmates.  Finally, she managed to escape to England possibly with the aid of her husband (she did not know).  She never saw him again.

She was in such a dreadful physical state on arrival she was taken to hospital and put on a drip.  She was pregnant but it was too late to have a termination.  Then began the process of seeking leave to remain with the Home Office.  This was an extremely lengthy process, and akin to a kind of ‘mental torture’ she said because it went on so long and you never knew how it would end.  At one point she was at risk of being deported back to Uganda and being tortured again.  After a long process of appeals she eventually won her indefinite leave to appeal.  Using DNA analysis she was reunited with her daughter she had not seen for eight years.

The second testimony was of a successful businessman from Syria who had seen his businesses looted and finally left the country and via Turkey and Greece made it to the UK.

Border Agency

But arguably the most chilling testimony was of someone called Louise who used to work for the UK Border Agency in Cardiff.  It was hard to believe that the things she described took place in this country and not somewhere in some despotic state.  On her first day her line manager said about children seeking asylum ‘if it was up to me I would take them out and shoot them.’  Conceivably, this could be an example of black humour albeit in poor taste, but it was said in all seriousness.

She was given combat training because some of the claimants are potentially dangerous.  She asked the trainer how many cases in three years have you granted asylum to and the reply was 3.  Just three.

The prevailing ethos of the Agency was not to let anyone in if at all possible.  The most chilling aspect to her story was the ‘Grant Monkey’.  This was not some kind of reward for good work but was placed on someone’s desk if they allowed a claim to succeed.  It was designed as a ‘mark of shame’.  Perhaps the one achievement resulting from her whistle-blowing was that this loathsome practice no longer exists.  One of the problems she said was people were recruited from university with no other experience of life and were put on the front line.  She said there was need for a Macpherson style Report into the Agency.  This was the 1999 report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence which shone light on race relations in the UK and coined the phrase ‘institutional racism’.

Juxtaposing testimonies of people who have experienced terrible and traumatic events in their lives including rape and torture and who may have lost all their worldly goods in the process of escaping, with the attitude of our Border Agency was decidedly shaming.  There is no denying that some people claiming asylum are far from deserving cases and may even people who have perpetrated terrible actions on others.  So there is need for rigorous scrutiny of claims.  This is different from treating all such people in the way they do.  Basic rights are not allowed during interviews of immigrants who may be vulnerable and traumatized.

This was an excellent performance and we hope to invite the group back again in the future.


If you live in the Salisbury area and you would like to join us you would be very welcome.  It is free to join.  The best thing is to come along to an event such as this and make yourself known.  Keep an eye on this site or on Twitter or Facebook if you prefer (salisburyai)

 

 

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Films at the Arts Centre
lucy maz crop

Prof Lucy Mazdon.  Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

We were delighted to be part of a showing of films at the Arts Centre as part of the Salisbury Festival.  Two films were shown: War Witch and Incendie.  Both were rather sombre films yet managed to have a degree of hope.  War Witch was set in Africa and showed the plight of a young girl caught up in the war where she is abducted and becomes a child soldier.  Incendie is the story of twins who travel to the middle east in search of their mother and what happened to her.  Both films were introduced by Prof. Lucy Mazdon who is head of the Dept in film at Southampton University and we were grateful to her for taking the time to come over to do this.

 


Saudi Arabia has successful blackmailed the UN to remove itself from a blacklist

Source: youthhealthmag.com

Human rights groups around the world have condemned the decision by the U.N. to remove Saudi Arabia from a blacklist of countries which are accused of abusing children’s rights.  This arises from their bombing activities in the Yemen conflict but also the general treatment of children in Saudi.  In Yemen, 1,953 children were killed and it is estimated that 60% of these deaths are as a result of Saudi bombing.  Britain is a major supplier of weapons to the regime and British service personnel are advising the Saudis.

The kingdom, who routinely violates their own citizens’ human rights on a daily basis, threw a fit when the UN published its report and threatened to withhold funding from the organisation.

Foreign Policy reported that:

senior Saudi diplomats told top U.N. officials Riyadh would use its influence to convince other Arab governments and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to sever ties with the United Nations.

On Monday, Ban Ki-moon said

The Saudi coalition would be removed from the list, pending a review. Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi insisted the removal was “irreversible and unconditional.”

Human rights groups, including Amnesty, have rightfully condemned and blasted the UN for their reversal:

It appears that political power and diplomatic clout have been allowed to trump the U.N.’s duty to expose those responsible for the killing and maiming of more than 1,000 of Yemen’s children,

Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, said in a statement:

The decision to retract its finding is a moral failure and goes against everything the U.N. is meant to stand for.

Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch deputy director for global advocacy, said that the office “has hit a new low by capitulating to Saudi Arabia’s brazen pressure” and “Yemen’s children deserve better.”

Amnesty International’s UN office claimed:

…if the U.N. doesn’t start standing up for human rights and its own principles then they will become part of the problem rather than the solution.

Saudi Arabia will not be the first country to browbeat the UN – at one time or another all countries have done it especially where embarrassing national interest is a stake.  This does seem to have been an especially egregious example however as the Saudi state’s crimes against children, and others, is well documented.  Combined with the bizarre election of the Saudi’s onto the Human Rights Council of the UN – supported shamefully by the UK Government – it begins to make a mockery of this international body.

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Tonight!

The problems of Syria and people fleeing that country are seldom out of the news these days and indeed, the issue of immigration – and immigrants from Syria are part of the problem – is high up on the agenda with the debate about Brexit or Remain in the European Union.  Many people are responding in interviews that the reason they want us to leave is to stop the flow of refugees and immigrants coming to the UK.

All the talk about ‘immigrants’ can sometimes cloud the fact that these are people we are talking about and people means children as well.  Children who may have witnessed terrible events and even have lost parents in the conflict.

So a talk being organised by the Romsey group of AI is timely.  They have invited someone from Firefly International to give a talk on Monday 20 June starting at 19:45.  It will be about the conditions in Southern Turkey and their projects for children in that area.  It will be in Abbey Hall, Romsey, SO15 8EL.

All welcome.