The Tories have a secret plan to make it easier to deport children.
A leaked document, exclusively seen by Socialist Worker, shows the government is terrified that ending child detention will give refugees more chance to launch community anti-deportation campaigns.
It says, “Families will continue to live in the community, whilst being fully aware that they are to be removed. It is likely that they will use all means at their disposal to try to avoid being removed.”
It points out that kids “may talk to other children in school about having to return to their country of origin” and that “teachers may become involved in campaigns to stop families being removed”.
And it proposes a vicious solution: “The alternative is not to inform the family of the exact time and date of removal, so they are not prepared.”
Refugee families could be snatched from their homes, bundled on to a plane and sent “home” to face repression—or worse.
The Tories are still seething at being forced into including a pledge to “end the detention of children for immigration purposes” in the coalition agreement in order to form a government.
Immigration minister Damian Green has made it quite clear that the government doesn’t see this as a humanitarian measure—and is worried it might lower “removal” rates.
He has said any new system must be “cost-effective and deliver the return of those who have no right to remain in the UK”.
The leaked document reflects this attitude. It is an internal briefing document sent out by Nicola Rae, head of Asylum, Refugee and Migration services in Manchester, dated
It explains that the government’s UK Border Agency (UKBA) is running two pilot schemes—one in the north west of England and one in London—to look at how to deport people without using detention.
In the north west pilot, families will be “informed that they will be removed at some point in the next two weeks.
“It is still undecided in the process whether a specific date and time will be given, or a longer period of a couple of days, in which they have to remain in the property ready.”
It then breaks the process down into “issues” raised for different services. The main ones surround the police—and the risk of protests.
In a passage that should give heart to anti-deportation campaigners, the document spells out the authorities’ fears over community campaigns.
It says: “Increased police presence may be required should the family try and build up a form of community protest on the day of removal.”
“If UKBA choose not to remove the family,” it worries, “then protests will become a common occurrence.”
But on the other hand: “If they continue with the removal of the family—then this could lead to significant public order problems.”
The document goes on to callously spell out some other implications of not detaining people before deportation.
It says refugee children becoming distressed and unhappy over being deported “could cause additional pressures in the classroom environment”.
It says some people react to forced removal “in a more extreme manner” and evasively adds: “This could result in the usage of emergency services, and other services to look after the children whilst the parent is being cared for.”
And it says parents being taken while some of their children are not at home, or children being taken without parents, could have “significant resource implications”.
It even says: “Some families will require immunisation prior to returning to their country of origin. Health services will be required to administer such immunisations within a specified timescale.”
This raises the spectre of local health centres being required to carry out forced immunisations.
“The document is chilling,” says Dr Rhetta Moran, from the Manchester‑based human rights organisation Rapar.
“All the new ‘management’ issues raised are bound up with families being more able—once all appeals have failed—to access support systems than they would have had access to were they in a detention centre.”
“Obviously it’s better that people aren’t kept in detention,” says Margaret Woods, of Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, “but at the end of the day people who have fled are still being ripped from our communities and sent back to wars or notorious regimes.
“We’ve experienced a lot of this stuff. They’ve already tried to just give people plane tickets.
“Our campaign is supported by EIS, the Scottish teachers’ union. A lot of health visitors, doctors and workers in doctors’ surgeries are outraged, though it is harder for them to speak out.
“These people work with asylum seekers and know how they are treated.”
Rhetta Moran added that the document seems to shift the authorities’ concerns in part away from families, and towards dealing with the communities around people being deported.
“The key issue is that of ‘significant public order problems’ in the event that community protests are ignored by the authorities,” she says.
“All the other detail in the report flows from this first question.
“If people do not organise community-level protest, then the family can be frightened and isolated.
“The state can then easily overcome the rest of the issues it raises in the document.”
The document shows the vital importance of welcoming refugees, and building huge campaigns that have the potential to make the authorities too scared to deport them.