Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Contempt for Human Rights: Who Needs China?

A friend in Darlington has sent me details of the shameful treatment of Elizabeth Kiwunga, a refugee from Uganda with small children (one just a few weeks old), whom the Home Office is trying to forcibly deport back to Uganda.

Here is part of her story:

Elizabeth came to the UK five years ago from Uganda seeking sanctuary in the UK having been tortured and raped because her husband had been Campaign Manager for the opposition party.

On Wednesday 9th July she was woken at 7.30am when the police and immigration officials knocked at her door. She went downstairs and looked through the window. Seeing the police she ran upstairs to her children (Marie 3yrs and John 14weeks). The officials either broke the door down or had access with a key because she then found they were in her home. Because she tried to contact her friends they handcuffed her and she was not able to comfort her terrified children. An official watched her as she got washed, gave her clothes to wear and supervised the packing of two suitcases. They then took Elizabeth to the police station in a car – Marie and John were in a separate vehicle. Since coming to Darlington she has been forcibly removed twice and taken to Yarlswood Detention Centre.

Elizabeths Vicar, Rev. Sheilagh Williamson, has now been placed on a Home Office blacklist – her support of Elizabeth being interpreted as ‘harassment’ and ‘incitement and endorsement for extremely disruptive behaviour’.

Elizabeth and her children have been deeply traumatised by the actions of the police and officials.

Liam Byrne the Minister for Immigration has not responded to, or even acknowledged, letters sent on Elizabeths behalf to ask for compassion and clarity. I'm not aware that Alan Milburn, the local MP, has been involved in this, but if not he should be.

Other coverage and campaigning information here, and here , Northern Echo report here. It's all pretty shocking, to think that we can't provide asylum to someone who has suffered this way in their native country, and that we deal in such an inhumane way with anyone, let alone a vulnerable family with young children. And anyone who knows Sheilagh Williamson knows that she doesn't do 'harassment'.

This isn't the kind of thing I normally blog about, but it seems to be a serious injustice, and it's good to see that the wider church is rallying round to provide support. Now, Mr Byrne, do the right thing.

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