Britain's Youngest Prisoners - Christmas Appeal 2008 (Circa December 2008)
No Children in Detention this Festive Season
Dear Home Secretary as a Campaigner for Britain's Youngest Prisoners, I know that our paths are bound to cross from to time, but I should hope that at this time of the year we can put our differences aside and call a truce, on behalf of those foreign national children who are unwanted by the UK and that you intend to deport. I am appealing to you directly for a moratorium on the detention/deportation of foreign national children and their families until the new year and that there should be no children in detention this Christmas.
I know you have two roles in life a mother looking after her family, which I am sure you do admirably and I have no quarrel with, and your job as Home Secretary.
As Home Secretary you are the Government's facilitator/enforcer for their immigration policies and here I do have to quarrel as I am more than convinced that foreign national children are suffering, irreparable damage because of the enforcement of these policies!
As a mother yourself perhaps we both should go down memory lane to our childhood to remember what Christmas meant to each of us.
How can I begin to describe Christmas in my humble African Village in Zimbabwe? I know for sure we did not have much and going hungry for days was not uncommon in a country now well known as the former breadbasket of Africa. As children we had no concept of poverty, eating bugs like crickets, certain beetles, caterpillars were all part of a normal tasty diet full of protein and very nutritious, eating bugs is not at all something done by celebrities as part of a game, where I came from it is food for the poor. Life was one big adventure to be explored and thoroughly enjoyed. My memories might not seem like much to a good many people, but for me those were some of my best memories of childhood.
My grandparents made Christmas such a big deal in their own way, my grandfather would get odd little jobs six months or more before Christmas, his health by then was failing after years of working for British mining companies and that of other multinational operations, he always tried to buy for every child Christmas clothes, we could not afford shoes, as long as I got my little dress with belts tying at the back and if it had lace well then I felt like a little princess. You see Ms Smith we only ever had two dresses at any given time, one for every day use and another for special occasions, we would go down to the river for a bath and at the same time wash our dresses, put them over the little bushes to dry whilst we had fun playing and swimming in the water and when they dried we put them back on.
But the real highlight of our Christmas was not toys, father Christmas a turkey dinner, it had very little to do with the birth of Christ and everything to do with bread, yes the humble loaf was what we looked most forward to because we only got to eat it once a year, maybe some fellow Zimbabweans can confirm this, was mine the only family that was bread crazy? If my grandparents managed to get us stork margarine and red sun jam (mixed fruit jam) we thought that we had died and woke up in heaven.
I am not ashamed to relate about my humble beginnings nor am I looking for sympathy my life was one big adventure, poverty is not a crime. The powers that be that enforce or make sure that countries export the food they grow rather than feed its citizens in order to service crippling debt these are the real crimes against humanity.
Now though I was not present at your Christmases I am quite sure they were quite different from mine, an abundance of good food served by family members, lots of presents and you had no fear of being put into detention and deported! No fear of Female Genital Mutilation, no fear of being married off before your 12th birthday or stoned to death because you were raped, no fear of the horrendous discrimination that females suffer from birth to death in third world countries, no fear of internal/external displacement or if you had been a boy, forced to become a child soldier. How I wish that I was making all these stories up to scare you, but I am not, this is the reality that a lot of the children you order to be removed from the UK will face.
If you have time can you let me know what happened to the children (especially the children, who face all the horrors mentioned in the previous paragraph) and families that you deported to Nigeria on a UK/Ireland joint charter flight on Thursday the 11th December. Will any of these families have to relocate to the Niger Delta, where 15 years of oil exploitation by Shell Petroleum Development Company have caused tremendous environmental pollution and made the land virtually uninhabitable.
For the children in detention this Christmas (and I sincerely hope there will be none) Christmas won't be a loving family gathering, yes there will be a Christmas dinner and there will be presents but those serving the dinner and handing out the presents, will not be the children's parents/grand parents/aunts & uncles, they will be prison guards with keys, keys that follow the children to unlock doors and lock doors.
For the Children of NASS there will be no Christmas this Christmas because of government policies that enforces these children to suffer state imposed poverty and deprivation. But no doubt the mothers/parents of these children will sacrifice and do all they can to make it a memorable Christmas for the little ones, you don't want.
I hope that we can get to know each other a little better in the future; if you have time,read my personal story Britain's Foreign Bastard Child then you might understand why I am so passionate about Britain's youngest Prisoners. Because like them I have been punished by Britain's Foreign/Home policies all my life.
I hope from the bottom of my heart that the Labour Government slogan 'Every Child Matters' will this Christmas extend to those children who know only Britain as their home because they have been born in the UK or spent their most formative years here.
As a child I never knew what existed beyond my village and I am sure that to these foreign national children the UK to them will be like my village was to me the world the entire universe.
UK Foreign policies wrecked my childhood; UK Home policies will wreck the lives of these children you want to deport. First they will be totally traumatised by the experience of being snatched at dawn and put in detention centres. Then onto a plane taking them to a country they have probably never known or heard of.
The saying Life is like a ball against the wall and whatever we throw against the wall of life will bounce back at us some day. So maybe you and your government need to seriously rethink your policies that affect foreign national children.
I will end where I started by asking for a moratorium on the detention/deportation of foreign national children and their families until the New Year.
No Children in Detention this Festive Season
I remain yours truly.
Britain's Foreign Bastard Child
Nellie de jongh
Monday 15th December 2008