Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Britain's asylum and refugee policies are shameful. Policy debate is trapped by the scare-mongering, selective information and xenophobia peddled by the tabloid press and reinforced by the likes of 'Asylum Watch' (so effectively taken on in a recent Westminster Forum debate). But the real scandal of the situation is highlighted by the tragic story of Manuel Bravo, 35, who hanged himself last Thursday after he and his 13-year-old son, Antonio, were arrested at their home in Leeds and taken to Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedford. They were due to be sent back to war-torn Angola. Mr Bravo's wife Lydia and their other son Mellyu returned to the country earlier this year. The International Red Cross later informed him that she had been arrested on their arrival and that both had disappeared. It seems that Mr Bravo hanged himself so that the government could not deport Antonio, as it is illegal to send back an unaccompanied minor.

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, John Packer, the vicar of Mr Bravo's local church, MP John Battle and local campaigners of all faiths and none are calling for an enquiry into the death - and into the arrest, which was probably illegal. Quite right, too. This is one policy area where churches are united against injustice, I'm delighted to say. The National Coalition of Anti-Seportation Campaigns, Bail for Immigration Detainees, the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice and the Bail Circle are among those who you can contact for action ideas and opportunities. See also the sanctuary intitiative.

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