NCADC | 04.07.2003 12:36
Beriwan 14, Newroz 3, Dilovan 12 and Medya 8 are spending their 353rd day in detention.
Over the past few months the plight of children being held in detention at the Immigration Removal Centre at Dungavel near Strathaven in Lanarkshire has been highlighted in the media. In particular, the four children of the Ay family, Kurdish refugees from Turkey, have been brought to the public's attention because of the length of time they have been detained: almost a year.
We wish to make an appeal that this family should be allowed to stay in the United Kingdom. We have no wish to enter into the legal arguments of the Ay family's application for asylum. Our concern is one of human rights and reparation for what we feel has been a grave injustice committed against them, particularly the four children.
The reasons given by the Home Office for their continued detention is that they are described as "serial absconders". The family came to this country after leaving Germany where their application for asylum had been rejected. While this may be the case, it is inhuman to detain children from the ages of seven to 14 for 11 months behind barbed-wire fences with no opportunity of leaving what is a prison regime.
Despite medical reports that the children have suffered greatly and are experiencing severe emotional and mental health problems, no recognition has been acknowledged by the Home Office of the damage which their long-term detention has had on these children.
It has been argued by some that the Ay family could have shortened their time in detention by abandoning their appeal. This would seem to suggest that justice is available only for those who are prepared to undergo a difficult and lengthy waiting period. It is of the very essence of justice that it be dispensed speedily.
The Ay family are essentially victims of a system which appears to be overwhelmed. While the government has our sympathy in the difficult task of processing such an enormous quantity of asylum applications, the treatment given to the Ay family is inexcusable and demands some form of just compensation.
We appeal therefore to the Home Secretary to grant residency in the United Kingdom to the Ay family as reparation for the length of time they have had to spend in detention and for the effect this has had upon the Ay children.
Rev John Cairns, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; Rt Rev Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, Roman
Catholic Church; Rt Rev Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow, Episcopal Church; Rt Rev John Mone, Bishop of Paisley, chairman, Catholic Justice and Peace Commission; M Ashraf Anjun, president, Islamic Centre, Glasgow; Dr Frank Murphy, former psychological services manager, South Lanarkshire Council; Bill Speirs, general secretary, STUC.
Glasgow Herald, Friday 4th July 2003
'It is a very bad place to live surrounded by barbed fences'
Refugee children accuse the government of mental torture
Alison Chiesa, Glasgow Herald Thursday 3rd June 2003
The children of asylum seekers kept for what is believed to be a record time in a detention centre yesterday tearfully accused the government of "mental torture ".
Appeal court judges on Tuesday rejected arguments by Yurdugal Ay, 34, a Turkish Kurd, that the mental health of her youngsters would suffer and their human rights be breached if they were made to leave the country.
The family - who previously lost asylum claims in Germany before coming clandestinely to Britain in 1999 - has now applied to the House of Lords for leave to have the decision overturned. If the appeal is successful it could set a precedent.
Sisters Beriwan, 14, Newroz, 13, Medya, eight, and their brother Dilovan, 12, have already spent a year in Dungavel detention centre, near Strathaven, Lanarkshire, with their mother.
Speaking through tears, Beriwan said: "We are being put through mental torture by being in here. Why won't the government listen to us? The younger children cannot
cope any longer and need to get out. It is a very bad place for them to live surrounded by barbed fences and not getting out to play.
"They are already suffering from stress and depression. Being here is driving us all crazy. I know people who have got crazy here after a week."
Last year, Salih, the children 's father, was returned to Germany and then deported to Istanbul. There has apparently been no news of him since. Beriwan said the remaining family were "terrified" of a similar fate befalling them.
Defending her mother's "struggle" to do the best for her family, she said: "Our mum is trapped struggling between two very difficult decisions. She doesn't want us locked up, but if we are deported to Germany we will be sent to Turkey."
Human rights organisations insist Kurds still face abuse, repression, and denial of their culture, such as in the Sirnak area of Turkey, from where Salih and Yurdugal arrived in Germany. The couple fled 15 years ago after the military police allegedly beat her husband and other Kurdish men. The family's supporters argue it is immoral for the UK government to claim it is safe to deport Kurds to Germany when Germany continues to return them to Turkey.
Peter Barry, spokesman for the Scottish Refugee Council, said: "Whilst I cannot comment on the merits of the asylum claim itself, it involves Turkish Kurds fleeing the country where human rights abuses have taken place. The children have endured enough uncertainty and should be afforded the dignity of a home where they are free and safe. It is not acceptable to accommodate these children in Dungavel."
The Ay children were described as "exceptional" pupils by teachers at their schools in Kent, where they lived for three years, until their removal to Dungavel. Beriwan said she had seen a "terrible" change in her siblings since arriving at Dungavel. She said: " The younger children hardly talk any more. They just sit and worry a lot. Even my littlest sister, Medya, doesn't want to play any more. She cries in her sleep and keeps asking my mum when we are getting out of here."
Newroz, 13, who last week told in The Herald how her education was now severely stunted, was also tearful as she said: "We are so fed up and unhappy. We want people to understand."
Diyarri Kurdi, spokesman for the Kurdish refugee community in London, of which the Ay family were members, said: "Our community is very angry about what Britain is doing to these children . We have tried to secure a meeting with David Blunkett, the home secretary. He has ignored our requests."
The home secretary has warned that letting the family stay in Britain could send out the wrong message and have an "appalling" effect on UK immigration control. But Mohammad Naveen Asif, of the Glasgow Refugee Action Group, said: "People run from country to country because they are in fear of their lives."
Michelle Lowe, Scottish campaigner for Amnesty International, said: " The children do not deserve to be deprived of their liberty or to have their education disrupted so severely. The government needs to seriously reconsider its approach to asylum seekers. They should not be treated like criminals. They are vulnerable."
Last night a Home Office spokeswoman said: "We are sympathetic to the needs of children . However, the parents' actions are the cause of the children 's turmoil."
However, Phil Gallie, the Conservative MP, said the right decision was made. He added: "It is very sad for these children , but a line has to be drawn somewhere with
asylum issues. You could say these parents exploited their children . They should have gone through the proper immigration procedures initially."
Clergy demand release of family
James Doherty, The Scotsman Friday 4th June 2003
Senior clergy have joined union and community leaders in calling for the immediate release of a Kurdish family who have been detained at Dungavel for almost a year.
In a letter published in The Scotsman today, three bishops - two Catholic and one Episcopalian - have joined a former moderator of the Church of Scotland and others in condemning the treatment of the Ay family as "a grave injustice".
On Tuesday, appeal court judges dismissed human rights arguments by Yurdugal Ay, 34, a Turkish Kurd, that the mental health of her children would be jeopardised if they were removed from the country.
It is believed that the length of the family's detention has already set a record in the UK.
The clerics' response will put further pressure on the Home Office to release the family. Officials claim that the protracted legal process of appeals has increased the length of their detention.
The Ays, including sisters, Beriwan, 14, Newroz, 13, Medya, eight, and their brother, Dilovan, 12, entered Britain unlawfully after a failed asylum application in Germany in 1999.
Last year, Salih, the children's father, was returned to Istanbul via Germany. The family claim there has been no news of him since.
The Very Rev John Cairns, the former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, Rt Rev John Mone, the Bishop of Paisley and Rt Rev Idris Jones, the Episcopalian Bishop of Glasgow, have joined Bill Speirs, the General Secretary of the STUC, Dr Frank Murphy, the former psychology manager in South Lanarkshire Council and Ashraf Anjum, the president of the Islamic Centre in Glasgow to call for the immediate release of the family.
The letter states: "Our concern is one of human rights and reparation for what we feel has been a grave injustice committed against them [the family], particularly the children."
The signatories note that the Home Office viewed the family as "serial absconders" as a result of their clandestine entry to the UK from Germany, but continue: "While this may be the case, it is inhuman to detain children for 11 months behind barbed wire fences with no opportunity of leaving what is a prison regime."
Dungavel, a former prison, near Strathaven, Lanarkshire, was pressed into service to detain asylum seekers deemed to be a flight risk or facing imminent deportation.
Echoing the arguments dismissed by the courts, the clerics maintain that medical reports prove that the family "have suffered greatly and are experiencing severe emotional and mental health problems".
The letter persists: "The family are essentially victims of a system which appears to be overwhelmed."
It concludes by appealing to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to grant the family residency in the UK as reparation for the length of detention, despite the fact that they have broken no law.
Speaking after the case, Mrs Ay said her family was being "put through mental torture," by being detained and that her "children cannot cope surrounded by barbed wire".
All four of her children were born within European Union borders, after the young family fled alleged Turkish oppression 15 years ago.
However, their birth in Germany, as in the UK, gives them no automatic right to citizenship.
Supporters claim it is immoral to return the family to Germany, in the full knowledge that they will, almost immediately, be transferred back to Turkey and what they claim would be an uncertain fate.
The family has now applied to the House of Lords for leave to appeal the decision.
Last night, a spokeswoman for the Home Office reiterated its assertion that the family's insistence on pursuing legal action was responsible for the protracted detention.
She added: "We are sympathetic to the needs of the children.
"However, the parents' actions are the cause of the children's turmoil."
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