New Clause 1 - Detention of persons – exempted persons

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties) 4:00 pm, 10th November 2015

In the immigration debate that took place in the Chamber, I spoke about a child who had been in detention. I know that the policy, notwithstanding what my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North said, is no longer to detain children, but I want to repeat what I said about that child, and I will explain why.

I talked about a 10-year-old boy who was detained with his mother in Dungavel in Scotland and was then moved to Yarl’s Wood. He lost 10 lb in three weeks and lost so much hope that he turned to his mother one day and whispered, “It would be easier if we died. Mummy, please can we die?” I appreciate that there is not a person in this room—I have absolutely no doubt—who, if that child were standing in front of them, would not do whatever they could to help that child. This was somebody I knew pretty well.

Okay, so we only detain adults now, but I am not willing to believe that there is any Member here who, if they had a woman standing in front of them who had been through so much trouble to get here, who was a victim of sexual violence, and they could make the decision about that one person standing there, having heard her story, would not help her. I do not believe that any of us would not use the key that we have to free her from detention if we were able to do it. They are not standing in front of us now, but we are the ones who hold the key to whether those people suffer in the way that many hon. Members have described. That mother wanted to comfort her child. She wanted to reassure her child that it would be over soon, that “this will be happening” in two weeks or one week, three days or three months or whatever, but she could not. She could not reassure herself because she had no idea how long they were going to be there.

I think that the worst thing for people is not having a clue when or where it is going to end. I visited a family in Dungavel a number of years ago, as an elected Member of the Scottish Parliament and I felt intimidated. I felt intimidated by the surroundings and the uniforms, by the big jangle of the keys, by the prison-like atmosphere and the fact that I was fingerprinted. I was a Member of the Scottish Parliament and they fingerprinted me as I went in. If I felt intimidated, what must it feel like to somebody who has absolutely no  control over their life, and has not had any for a long time because they have had to flee their country and ask for help in a foreign country? I cannot imagine it.

I pay tribute, as my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North has done, to the organisations that support people in detention. I particularly encourage the organisations that demonstrate outside such facilities to continue to do so, because it makes a big difference to the people inside. There was a demonstration at Dungavel a couple of weeks ago. I know people who went, although I was unable to attend.