The unwanted children

In my defence I should mention that I think of them often. But then impotence sets in, because I always feel there isn’t much, if anything, we can do about the children who come to Britain seeking asylum. So thank God for people like Beverley Naidoo, who has just been to Yarl’s Wood – where the children are detained like prisoners – on a visit. Then she wrote an article for the Guardian about it.

There is nothing in Beverley’s tale that suggests this isn’t a prison. They can call it whatever they like, but ‘nicer’ words won’t change what it is. But I suppose it’s reassuring they still required Beverley and the accompanying illustrator Karin Littlewood to bring their enhanced CRB forms and proper ID. To search a visiting author for so long that a great chunk of the time intended for the children just disappears is beyond belief.

And were the teachers in uniform with the keys really guards? Would real teachers stand for this kind of thing? (I asked Beverley if she found out in the end, and she reckons they are teachers, but special Serco teachers.)

It can never be easy to come to a new country as an asylum seeker. To be a child and to be treated like a criminal in one of the supposedly good countries of the world, must be totally bewildering. There is a petition you can all sign at

Please do so now. It’s very quick.

The campaign End Child Detention Now can be found here.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo and Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah are two of the strongest ‘asylum’ books for young readers that I know. Not new, but well worth reading if you haven’t already.

5 responses to “The unwanted children

  1. Thanks for flagging up the petition, I didn’t know about it.
    My experience of asylum seekers is seeing the groups trying to get through to the UK on the ferry from France (my hometown is one of the main French ferry ports). It’s quite heartbreaking, seeing them (mainly people from Iraq), hanging around the ferry terminal, waiting for an opportunity to cross.

  2. I don’t know about you, Library Mice, but I always have this feeling whenever I criticise the British government, that I’ll find myself on the first plane out of the country, before I know what’s hit me. I would guess the natives don’t have that background fear.

  3. Thank you for that, witch. I was supposed to go to Yarl’s Wood on the same day, but didn’t have my criminal record clearance, so might have tried to molest the kids. Many of the responses to Beverley’s thoughtful article are very very depressing. My family came to the US from Russia in the 1880s, asylum seekers from pogroms against Jews. Sixty years later, at least nineteen members of my family were murdered by the Nazis, unable to find asylum elsewhere in Europe. Maybe your attitude depends on your background.

  4. Obviously one’s attitude WILL partly depend on one’s background, inasmuch as if there have been such terrible things as that in your family history, Meg, you’re always going to feel sympathy with others in such predicaments, but believe me it’s possible to feel such sympathy even with a background of Englishness going back for generations. I think the detention of children is appalling, and the way we treat asylum seekers is appalling, and I’m very saddened that the Bookwitch feels an undercurrent of fear when criticising the Gov’t.

  5. Clare at ecdn has emailed me to say that after the article in the Guardian, another 700 people signed the petition. If you haven’t already – please do it now.

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