Photo: Helen Duffett on Flickr.
One of the highlights of Conference so far was a warm, emotional and bright interlude yesterday when Citizens UK (@citizensuk on Twitter) took to the stage to thank the Liberal Democrats for ending child detention for immigration purposes.
A line of smiling children and young people,who had got up at 5 am, filled the stage holding gold balloons spelling out a message of thanks.
Nick Clegg & Sarah Teather accepted flowers and thanks. Nick paid tribute to Sarah’s work in ending child detention and Sarah acknowledged that there was still much work to be done on the immigration system. She thanked Citizens UK, saying that Liberal Democrats instinctively supported ending child detention but that their motivation had given ministers food for the journey.
I was lucky to spend an hour with them afterwards which turned out to be one of the most inspiring hours I have ever spent at a Liberal Democrat conference. If a tiny bit of their positivity could make its way into our political culture, it would do us all a lot of good. They wouldn’t take no for an answer when the notoriously inflexible UK Borders Agency refused to discuss their concerns on the treatment of children. They pitched up at UKBA HQ with a van and a couple of nuns who served cups of tea to the staff and didn’t leave till they had talks with senior officials. Procedures have changed as a result of their intervention.
Much still needs to change in immigration policy and practice. If you want to learn more about their work, they will be at St Paul’s Church on West Street (go out of Conference Centre, turn left, exit turnstiles and turn left again at Odeon cinema) between 4 and 6 pm. They invite us to meet people who are going through the asylum system and hear their experiences.
After that, at 6:15 pm, they will be helping to launch Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary, discussing “After the ending of child detention, what next?” in the same venue.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings