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On dawn raids (and what happens after)

one of no borders | 07.10.2007 20:41 | No Border Camp 2007 | Anti-racism | Migration

Invariably, it is familes with children who are targeted as they are more likely to be found at home and detained all together.
Baby Ashleen and her mother Juliet were taken in a dawn raid after their door was smashed. Nathan and Jeremiah, three and two years old, were detained with their parents during another dawn raid. Another young mother took an overdose on the eve of her planned deportation, wanting to die and was taken to hospital: her four years old daughter was left in the detention centre on her own.

Juliet Nakajja and her 18 months old daughter Ashleen were woken at 5 am in the morning by a loud banging on their door. Juliet called some friends who live nearby and they arrived just in time to see the snatch squad drag the terrified toddler and her mother away. They were taken to Yarl's Wood detention centre near Bedford. There were five Border and Immigration Agency officers and four policemen with handcuffs. Juliet is 5ft tall and weights 59 kg. She was not even allowed to collect her belongings and arrived to the detention centre with the clothes she was wearing. She had been reporting at Old Street for 21 months consecutive and never missed a day.
There were other children and babies detained in the family unit. Nathan and Jeremiah were also snatched at dawn. They are three and two years old respectively. Their mother, Lynn Ndagire, is 6 months pregnant, and became very ill and suicidal in detention. Their father, Palvin Ntaki, is a former boy soldier. This family have now been released, after narrowly escaping deportation.
A four years old girl was left in the detention centre on her own, after her mother was rushed to hospital for taking an overdose of anti-depressants. She is now back in Yarl's Wood on suicide watch. Mother and baby were to be deported the next morning. The mother is a political refugee who came to the UK as an unaccompanied and pregnant minor, after being raped and tortured. Her little daughter is the result of rape. Campaigners are frantically trying to find her a solicitor, before mother and daughter get another removal.

Juliet's solicitor was surprised and annoyed when she was detained: neither Juliet nor him had been informed that Juliet's fresh asylum claim had been refused. Mother and baby were served with removal directions to Uganda. The solicitor applied to the High Court for a judicial review, which was accepted. However, due to time being short, mother and baby were taken to the airport, after a few days in detention... and back again to the detention centre, when the Home Office and than the 'escorts' were informed that the judicial review had been accepted and the deportation cancelled. Weeks later, Juliet and her baby are still in Yarl's Wood, waiting to go for a bail hearing. The Social Services in the meantime have taken away her accommodation.
Juliet, now 22 years old, came to the UK as an unaccompanied minor. Her house in Uganda was raided by soldiers because of her father's support to the opposition's presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye. Juliet was dragged away on an army lorry. Her parents were put on a different lorry. She heard her father shouting, a gun firing, her mother crying. She understood her father had been killed. Later she learned her mother had been killed too. Juliet, who was 17 at the time, was tortured and forced to become the 'wife' of one of the soldiers. She was rescued by friends of her father's, who attacked the soldiers guarding her when she went to fetch water.
Ashleen has been having nightmares ever since she was dragged from her home during the dawn raid. She wakes up at night screaming. She is only 18 months old, but she understands something is seriously wrong. She has became ill and is not receiving appropriate medical care. Since she was detained, Ashleen has been trying to walk out the detention centre. It looks like she does not want to be there! Juliet is well known in Yarls' Wood: she was pregnant with Ashleen when she was detained for the first time, and did most of her pregnancy in detention. She was losing weight instead of gaining it and was so distressed and scared she tried to commit suicide – by locking herself in a tumble dryer. After three attempts to deport her were cancelled, she was finally released from detention when her fresh claim was lodged, thanks to the No Borders Detainee Support Group who managed to find her a good solicitor. Following her release, Juliet became herself a volunteer with the No Borders group, helping other detained asylum seekers. She also joined the Hackney Refugee and Migrants Support Group and is a trustee for the new day centre for refugees they are about to open.
There are other children and babies in the family unit - 'the babies are also detainees', Juliet points out.
Nathan and Jeremiah are three and two years old respectively. Their parents are also from Uganda, and like Juliet and the other young lady they came to the UK as unaccompanied minors. The family were snatched at 5 in the morning from their home in Croydon. Palvin and Lynn are both ministers in their Church and valued members of their community. The mother, Lynn Ndagire, 21, is 6 months pregnant. In detention she became very ill and unable to eat. She was brought to Bedford hospital for a visit but they did not even do a scan for her pregnancy. She had a miscarriage before and was in so much pain she could not even walk. Her husband Palvin had to push her around in a wheelchair. The boys were not eating much either, they don't like the food in Yarls' Wood – nobody does. They were both premature babies, they are a bit delicate. The father, Palvin Ntaki, 22, is a former boy soldier who was abducted by the Lord Resistance Army aged 13, after his house was raided and his parents killed. Palvin's father was a former LRA supporter who defected. Palvin has torture scars all over his body from his 'training' as a child soldier. A medical legal report was never commissioned. According to Home Office own guidelines, allegations of torture should be investigated and torture survivors should only be detained 'in very exceptional circumstances'. The detention brings back memories, and Palvin and Lynn have been experiencing flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks. Lynn has been waking up at nigh crying and has been experiencing suicidal thoughts with increasing intention. The immigration judges maintain Lynn has been telling lies about being raped and tortured – she bears scars consistent with the trauma she describes, and shows clear signs of post traumatic stress disorder; however she was unable to give a satisfactory account of her experiences, probably because she was just 15 years old when the bad things happened. Always according to the judges, Palvin is 'no longer in danger' if deported back to Uganda, and could 'relocate safely'. The family had a removal cancelled, but after a judicial review was refused they were given new removal directions. The No Borders group referred the family to a good solicitor, who luckily had capacity, and to the Medical Justice network: an independent doctor went to see Lynn and Palvin. Just in time! On the same evening Lynn was rushed to hospital because she started bleeding. The day after the family were suddenly released.They are now back in Croydon. Lynn is still in hospital.
Some thoughts: these people have been tortured already: is there any logic or justification for the treatment they and their children are receiving now? Is it part of our 'fair but robust' immigrations policies?
According to a Home Office spokeswoman: 'detained asylum seekers are treated with dignity and cared for with humanity'.
The young mother who attempted suicide rather than be deported had a good case, but her chances were spoilt by bad legal representation. She was awaiting for new evidence to make a fresh claim. On a Friday afternoon she was given removal directions for Sunday, early in the morning. On Friday most solicitors go home and switch their mobile phones off, so it becomes next to impossible to find a legal representative during the week-end. Is this how the Minister for Immigration Liam Byrne achieves his goal to deport someone every 8 minutes?
According to a Home Office spokeswoman: 'every case is considered according to its individual merits'.
As for asylum seekers being a drag on the economy: Juliet was a student nurse before she was first detained and had never claimed benefits; Palvin is a well known musician and he qualified as a sound engineer.
To keep somebody in detention costs on average £ 1300 per week for an adult, I don't know how much for a child, without the overheads such as snatch squads, escorted transport, deportations including failed and cancelled ones . The cheapest ticket to Uganda costs around £ 450 per person during low season with Kenyan Airways, the normal price is over £1.900, plus one ticket for each escort, plus the escorts have to be paid for doing the government's dirty job, plus bonuses - rumour has the escorts get some bounty money for every 'succesful' deportation, plus they usually have to spend the night in a hotel. The deportees may have to spend the night in a prison or in some interrogation centre, after being handed over by the UK escorts to Immigration and security services in their countries. Normally there are 4 to 8 escorts for a family, depending on the family's size. All taxpayers' money. Babies go free.

one of no borders
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