Dear Santa, I'd like Christmas away from a detention centre
CAMPAIGNERS fear that Precious Mhango, a ten-year-old Scots asylum seeker, may be forced to spend Christmas locked up at Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.
• Precious Mhango, ten, may spend Christmas locked up
Precious and her mother Florence, 32, from Cranhill, Glasgow, have been in detention for almost three weeks after being moved from Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire.
The pair were already on board a jet at Heathrow Airport in London, about to be deported to Malawi, on 23 November when they heard they had gained a last-minute reprieve. Their case is now being fought by Paul Chen, QC.
Yesterday, senior doctors called for an immediate end to the "profoundly harmful" detention of children in immigration removal centres.
The Royal Colleges of Paediatrics and Child Health, GPs and psychiatrists, as well as the UK Faculty of Public Health, said that detention of children and their families in the centres caused "significant harm" and should be ended without delay.
However, while campaigners wait on the High Court to decide on the Home Office application to expedite the Mhangos' case – meaning it would be heard in January or February – concerns were growing about Precious's welfare.
Anne McLaughlin, an SNP MSP campaigning for the Mhangos, who have been in the UK for seven years, to remain in Scotland, said last night: "Precious is really suffering, she is unhappy and had been having stomach aches, probably caused by the stress.
"She is missing her best friend and her school and just wants to get home to Glasgow. She gets some lessons in Yarl's Wood, but it is not enough and she can't concentrate because she is so scared.
"She is a really bright, intelligent young girl who works hard at school… just the sort of person we need to keep in Scotland."
Sam Paterson, community (integration) development worker at the Cranhill Community Project, said: "Precious and her mother being locked up has been very tough on the whole community.
"Kids at Precious's school, St Maria Goretti Primary, and other schools in the area are traumatised because they think she has been kidnapped. They see the poster campaign and think she's missing. It is a difficult thing for adults to understand, never mind how to explain it to children.
"Wee Precious doesn't know Malawi. She needs to be home here. We've heard she's lost four to five pounds in weight since being in Yarl's Wood and is constantly sick. Her main fear is that if they are sent back she will lose her mum."
John Wilkes, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: "Detention is a traumatic experience for children. It is inhumane and has a serious impact on their physical and mental health, their education and personal development.
"When children and other vulnerable people are held in detention for a sustained period of time, the effects can be devastating."
MOTHER BOTH A WINNER AND A LOSER
AN AMERICAN mother who was facing deportation from Scotland – leaving her two young children behind – was celebrating yesterday after winning her fight to remain in Britain.
Angela Faye Smith, 41, who lives in the Angus town of Arbroath, had been told by Home Office officials she had until this Sunday to leave the country after being refused a new visa following the break-up of her marriage to her Scottish husband.
But she has now been granted permission to remain in Scotland indefinitely with her two children, a boy of 11 and a girl aged nine, after submitting a fresh application to the government.
The celebrations, however, have been marred by the fact that Mrs Smith has lost her job as a result of
concerns about her legal right to work in the United Kingdom.
Said Mrs Smith: "I am obviously delighted that I have indefinite leave to remain in Britain, but losing my job is now heavy on my mind."
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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