Activists disrupt Barnardo's fundraiser

Tagged as: migration repression social_struggles
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Published by group: GroupNoBorders

No Borders activists took to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall last night at a prestigious fundraising concert organised by Barnardo's in protest at the charity's collaboration with the UK Border Agency in detaining children.

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Barnardo's Young Supporters Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, where children from different schools take part in a mass choir, is a regular event to raise funds for Britain's biggest children's charity.

In the latest protest against the organisation's involvement in a new family detention centre in Sussex, two activists walked onto the stage and unfurled a banner reading "Barndardo's: 'We believe in [locking up] children'", mocking the organisation's slogan.

One of the activists who took part in the protest said: "It is incredibly cynical and hypocritical of Barnardo's to use children to raise funds that it then uses to pay for facilitating the imprisonment of other children. Barnardo's staff and supporters should be ashamed of its involvement in child detention."

A member of the audience, suspected to be a Barnardo's employee, soon jumped on the protesters, in a frenzied rage out of place, and ripped their banner, calling them 'scum'. The protesters were removed by aggressive security guards after a few minutes.

The action was the latest in a series of protests by anti-detention campaigners trying to dissuade Barnardo's from providing child welfare services at the Cedars family detention facility, near Crawley. Campaigners argue that the charity's involvement in the facility, officially described as 'pre-departure accommodation', is utilised by the government to legitimise the continued use of detention for children, which the government promised to stop doing in 2010. [1]

The converted school has all the characteristics of a detention centre but the name. With a 2.5m perimeter fence and 24-hour security, it is run under the Detention Centre Rules by the notorious security company G4S, which runs three other immigration detention centres. [2]

In July last year, Barnardo's set 'red lines' for its involvement in the pilot scheme, in what appears to have been a desperate attempt to reassure critics of its controversial decision. The conditions included withdrawing services if more than 10 percent of the families deported in the first year of the trial went through the centre; if any family has stayed at the centre more than once or for longer than the one week maximum; or if disproportionate force is used with a family on route to or from the centre. [3]

Campaigners say many of these conditions have been breached repeatedly but Barnardo's is 'simply ignoring' that and refusing to listen to anyone. Many families have reported suffering from trauma and being subjected to verbal abuse and physical assaults by the security guards. At least one family is known to have been held at the centre for over one week.

A recent investigation by the UKBA's Professional Standards Unit into allegations surrounding the actions of Reliance security guards found that inappropriate force had been used in the case of one individual deported from Cedars.

A statement by Barnardo's said the charity has "raised our concerns about this directly with the Minister and have asked them to ensure that Reliance addressed their member of staff's conduct."

The statement adds: "When Barnardo's decided to provide the welfare and care services at Cedars pre-departure accommodation, we also committed to speaking out if the level of force used with a family on route to or from the [centre] was disproportionate to family circumstance."

Describing the statement as "cheap PR", a spokesperson from No Borders London said: "The charity's condition to enter the contract was to withdraw its services if these conditions were breached, not to 'speak out' and write to the minister."

This is not the first time that Barnardo's has been the target of protest over child detention. Since Cedars was opened, campaigners have picketed and leafleted staff and customers at various Barnardo's charity shops. In February this year, a group of activists occupied the charity's headquarters in Barkingside, Essex in a bid to speak to the chief executive Anne Marie Carrie about the organisation's involvement with child detention. Barnardo's managers refused to talk to them and instead called the police to remove them by force. [4]

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Notes for editors:

[1] In May 2010, the new coalition government 'committed' to ending child detention for immigration purposes as part of a "new, compassionate approach to family removals." However, while families with children due to be forcibly deported are no longer held in normal immigration detention centres, they are instead placed in new secure facilities, euphemistically named 'pre-departure accommodation', until they are deported. The first such centre to open last summer was Cedars in Pease Pottage, near Crawley, West Sussex. For more on this and other planned family detention centres, see http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3881.

[2] Families and children held at Cedars are arrested and administratively detained under the provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act. They are subject to the Control and Restraint Techniques used across the detention estate. Detained children are only allowed out of the facility under strictly controlled circumstances. This clearly amounts to a continued use of the detention of children for immigration purposes. For more on this, see http://london.noborders.org.uk/node/473.>

[3] See
http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news_and_events/media_centre/press_releases.htm?ref=70802

[4] For more details on previous protests against Barnardo's, see
http://london.noborders.org.uk/barnardos/timeline

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