We’re all horrified at Trump’s treatment of immigrants and children but let’s not forget the UK is pretty terrible too

I tried to avoid hearing the recording of the children crying after being taken from their parents at the US border. I could only imagine their despair and fear at not knowing if or when they were going to see them again. Tiny children, who had no way of understanding what was going on, were thrown into turmoil.

No wonder there were comparisons to torture. Vince had strong, but also salutary words:

It is particularly galling to think that we allowed the Tories to introduce an income requirement for British citizens who wanted to live here with their spouses and children if they came from outside the EEA.

By 2015, this had amounted to 15000 children forcibly living apart from one parent. At least they had the other parent, but even so, this is far from humane.

Since we left the coalition, the Tories have unleashed the full horror of heir anti-immigrant ideology with their “hostile environment.” But could they do the sort of things that Trump is doing. The answer, sadly, is, yes.

Writing in the Metro earlier this week, Celia Clarke, the Director of Bail for Immigration Detainees, described how one man was detained when he reported to the Police while his partner was abroad for a family funeral and his children were taken into care. This was against Home Office policies.

A few weeks ago, a former client of BID’s who had been bailed and reunited with his partner and four children went to report as normal.  His wife was out of the country attending her mother’s funeral.  On reporting the Home Office official told our client that they were going to detain him.  He pleaded with them not to, explaining that he was currently his children’s sole carer.  They detained him anyway and the children were taken into the care of social services, in breach of their own policies and despite BID making representations urging them not to.  In another case, the Home Office sought to justify the deportation of a parent on the basis that the child had already been separated from his parent on several occasions as a result of immigration detention. In other words, they used detention to try and weaken the bond between a parent and child. Unlike the criminal justice system where an independent court has to sanction the incarceration of someone charged with a criminal offence, a decision to detain an individual under immigration powers is taken by an immigration officer and is not subject to judicial oversight.  There is currently no time limit on immigration detention in the UK and no automatic legal representation.

A 2013 BID study of families separated in this way makes for distressing reading.  There are going to be times when someone has committed a crime that is so horrible, and are a continuing danger to the community if they are not detained, but this should be extremely rare. The stories in the report are awful – including a woman being detained for months on end while her sick father couldn’t cope with her children, fell ill and had to be cared for by her daughter, who missed her GCSEs. That simply should not happen. That woman eventually won her immigration appeal and it did happen under our watch. To be fair, Labour weren’t much better either, but that, frankly, is no excuse.

At this year’s Autumn Conference, we’ll have a chance to make a fair immigration system that treats those who have to deal with it with dignity and respect. As we’ve discussed on here many times, a working group is drawing up a paper which will be published shortly. I am very much of the opinion that the Home Office needs dismantling and the whole thing started again with a humane and respectful culture that presumes against separating families unless there is an extremely good reason.

Lib Dem Immigrants are on the case already, tweeting to the chair of the working group:

As far as I’m concerned, any immigration system needs to inspire the confidence of those who have to use it and those who advocate on their behalf. It should also provide a means of challenging decisions – and that means access to Legal Aid.

That is the standard to which I will be judging the policy paper when it is published.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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9 Comments

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Jun '18 - 6:06pm

    @David Raw: In breach of the Home Office policies. This wouldn’t be the first time. I have seen it myself on several occasions.

  • Martin Walker 25th Jun '18 - 2:18pm

    In optimistic moments I think that with Windrush, Trump, etc, there is a window of opportunity for us as a Party to argue strongly for a much more humane, liberal policy on immigration and asylum matters. I just hope the next iteration of the paper from the Policy Working Group takes that approach (as argued for by Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary and many, many others) rather than the Cleggian approach in its first draft of pretending we think that immigration and freedom of movement and giving sanctuary to refugees are problems, in the astonishingly naïve view that this will create a space for a more healthy debate.

  • suzanne Fletcher 25th Jun '18 - 4:11pm

    whilst we are being angry, I know this is slightly off topic but can you write to your MP please and ask them to make a public declaration not to turn in their constituents to the Home Office. I’ve done my 2 in Stockton, not that I think they would be so nasty, but all MPs need to do this. Tim, Wera and Norman already signed.
    https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2018/jun/19/why-were-asking-mps-not-act-border-guards

  • suzanne Fletcher 25th Jun '18 - 4:54pm

    Can people please ask their MP to sign a pledge to say they will not perpetuate the “hostile environment” by reporting their constituents to the Home Office
    https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2018/jun/19/why-were-asking-mps-not-act-border-guards

  • suzanne Fletcher 25th Jun '18 - 5:01pm

    Here is our very own Roger Roberts on need for total reform of the Home Office
    https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2018-06-21a.2093.2&s=speaker%3A13477#g2096.0

  • Caron: you wrote “I am very much of the opinion that the Home Office needs dismantling and the whole thing started again with a humane and respectful culture that presumes against separating families unless there is an extremely good reason.”

    I couldn’t agree more with you. Where does the Home Office recruit the sort of people who make the inhumane and cruel decisions that you have referred to and that we read about every week? Why are they not disciplined in the way that officials (in the police, military, prisons) who practise physical cruelty would be (at least in theory). Is there no code of ethics to which public servants have to subscribe that requires them to treat people with respect and humanity? Maybe there should be a public enquiry into the culture and ethics of the Home Office as there was into the Metropolitan Police following the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

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