Call for review after family deported without son; IMMIGRATION: CHILDREN’S RIGHTS; Children’s commissioner speaks of ‘distress’ at cases of young people caught in asylum system

20 November 2005

Reprinted from The Sunday Herald

November 20, 2005

Byline: By Rachelle MoneyHighlight: Children’s commissioner Kathleen Marshall says scrutiny of the system is essential Photograph: Peter Sandground


SCOTLAND’S Commissioner for Children and Young People has called for immigration procedures to be reviewed following the case of a 16-year-old boy who was left behind after his family was deported to Pakistan.

Professor Kathleen Marshall told the Sunday Herald: “There is a clear need to review immigration removal procedures to ensure respect for basic human rights, including the right to respect for private and family life. This is particularly important for children and young people.”

Although Marshall cannot comment on individual cases, she did say she found it “distressing” to hear “a continuous stream of reports of experiences of particular families being caught up in the system. But it is also important that those voices are heard.”

She added: “It is not enough to state that procedures are designed to be humane. We need to keep on scrutinising practice to make sure that they actually are.”

Last week the Sunday Herald reported that a mother was facing deportation to Pakistan without her 16-year-old son.

Farhat Ahmed, her son Faheem, 20, and daughter Zoha, 14, were deported last Sunday after a dawn raid on their Glasgow home. It is thought her younger son, Farhad, was in London at the time staying with friends. It is also claimed that immigration services confiscated Farhat’s mobile phone, leaving her unable to be contacted.

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, said: “Nobody knows where Farhad is now, he’s missing. He hasn’t turned up to his flat, he hasn’t made contact with anyone, and he has no idea what has happened to his family.”

Farina, a neighbour and friend of the Ahmed family, said: “His mother’s mobile doesn’t work in Pakistan, I can’t contact her. He [Farhad] hasn’t contacted me yet. I believe in God and hope He does something for me and for Farhad.”

Shiona Baird, Green MSP, asked Jack McConnell if he would condemn the dawn raid on the Ahmed family’s home and the “abandoning” of a 16-year-old child at First Minister’s Question Time last Thursday.

McConnell responded: “I do not intend this point to be in any way facetious or to demean the importance of the particular incident, but I do not think that 16-year-olds are automatically covered by the legislation that protects children in Scotland in every case. Therefore, we would need to ensure that any interventions in such cases were appropriate.”

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP, said: “The UNCRC [United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child] has an international basic standards on children’s rights [aged 18 and under] which most countries in the civilised world have signed up to.

“The government has a reservation on the UNCRC in the case of the asylum system, so it doesn’t have to avoid deporting anyone on the basis of those welfare rights. But as well as those deportation decisions, it seems to behave as though none of these rights applies to those children. This is frankly a disgraceful situation and a disgraceful position for the UK government to take.”

Scottish children’s charities have also said that young people’s rights are being “abused” by the current system.

Sue Fisher, the acting programme director for Save the Children Scotland, said: “Urgent action must be taken on the way deportations are being carried out that is causing so much distress and trauma to asylum-seeking children and their families. It is not acceptable that children’s rights are being abused in this way on Scottish soil.”

She continued: “The Scottish Executive has recognised the problems and has proposed a protocol to ensure that local authorities and childcare agencies are involved to better protect the rights of children. In the meantime, more children have suffered as a result of the lack of action.

“There cannot be any further delay in sorting out these practices and ensuring that the rights and best interests of these most vulnerable children are being protected, ” she added.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Where a family member is not present for detention or removal, every effort is made to contact that person and try and arrange a removal. The family is given every opportunity by the immigration service, and every effort is made to keep the family unit together, although there are inevitably occasions where it is not possible.

“The government is committed to removing failed asylum seekers who no longer have a legal basis to remain here in the UK and, with that in mind, we will not allow those with children to circumvent the immigration laws in order to remain in the UK.”

He added: “Officers involved in family removals receive thorough training to minimise distress.”


FACTS: The Children’s Commissioner for Scotland, politicians and charities have hit out at the immigration services and are calling for a review of how failed asylum seekers are sent home. Children’s rights are also being called into question.

BACKGROUND: Last week the Sunday Herald highlighted the case of Farhad Ahmed, a fourth-year pupil at St Roch’s Secondary School in Glasgow, whose family were deported after a dawn raid on their Royston home. The Executive, which has faced increasing pressure to review the practice of dawn raids, has recently introduced a protocol on the issue.


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