13 year old Meltem Avcil & her mother to be released from Yarlswood

23 November 2007

In a successful campaign led by Positive Action in Housing, we maintained close contact with Meltem and her mother, we successfully lobbied the then Children’s Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, to take a personal interest. We organised a UK-wide letter-writing campaign and highlighted what was happening in the press. The publicity led to Meltem and her mother being released and the charity Women for Refugee Women, journalist Natasha Walters, and actress Juliet Christie getting involved. We are incredibly proud of helping The family to be released.

Report by Robina Qureshi
Published: 24/11/07

Meltem came to this country in 2001 with her mother. They sought asylum here after the family was persecuted by Turkish police for being Kurdish. But because they’d passed through Germany, their asylum claim was refused. It was not turned down immediately, however, and by the time they were detained they had been in the country for six years, building a life for themselves. Meltem was doing very well at school and they had relatives in this country who had applied successfully for asylum. Positive Action in Housing highlighted the detention of mother and child and helped to get them released from detention. Meltem’s bravery in speaking out while in detention won her many supporters, and she and her mother were eventually released and their case reheard, and they received refugee status. Below is the report we released at the time.

14 year old Meltem Avcil and her mum are to be released today (23 Nov) from Yarlswood. Speaking from Yarlswood this afternoon, in her soft Doncaster accent, Meltem said:

“I am so happy I think I will burst. This is my best moment ever. I want to say thank you to the children’s commissioner for not forgetting me. He had the kindest eyes ever. But I want to know why my school never helped me.”

Robina Qureshi, Director, Positive Action in Housing, who led the campaign, said:

“We welcome and celebrate Meltem’s imminent release.

“We want to thank the press and her 1, 583 supporters in Scotland, England, Germany and France who wrote to express their outrage at her detention, and Sir Al Aynsley-Green who took his time out to go and meet Meltem.

“However, it is shameful that this government put a 14 year old girl through such psychological trauma in an attempt to force her out of her home which is Doncaster. Meltem suffered considerable psychological trauma as a result of her incarceration. She went from being a happy child to a depressed self harmer seeking out suicide pacts with fellow young ‘detainees’ at Yarlswood, where some fifty other children remain locked up. So what about them? At her last bail hearing, the judge wanted to see medical evidence of her unhappiness, the existing medical notes from Medical Justice now confirm the obvious.

“The government with its messy asylum system dithered over whether she was a refugee or an asylum seeker. But to Meltem, her home is Doncaster and she insisted all along she belongs in the UK, in Doncaster. A child growing up in a country for six of the most formative years of her life does not see a refuge or a temporary place; she sees her home, her country. This is her home and noone had the right to take that – or her liberty for that matter – away from her. This child was also taken away from her home at dawn in August 2007, like a criminal, without so much as a chance to say goodbye to her friends and neighbours. Meltem’s home is Doncaster and she belongs there. We fought hard for Meltem to go back home to Doncaster, because that is her home in the truest sense of the word.

“We are truly disappointed in Meltem’s school, Hall Cross Lower, which never spoke one word in her defence while she was locked up. We have seen with other campaigns, other schools shout the loudest, teachers and pupils petition and protest. The silence emanating from Hall Cross was deafening. Their message to Meltem, “best of luck for the future” was one more piece of abuse we chose not to tell Meltem about while she was locked up. In fact, on her birthday, various teaching unions had met in Hall Cross and Meltems name never even came up until two NUT members approached us. To Hall Cross we say, Meltem Avcil was locked up, NOT disappeared. Now she’ll be back and we hope the school can explain themselves”

“The political situation in Turkey, is such that they face certain persecution because they are Kurds. There is nowhere else for this family to go. Give it another year and Meltem would have had a legal right to stay here because of the seven year rule. The fight for Meltem and her mum to remain continues.” ENDS

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