Glasgow dawn raid raises disturbing questions

In the first dawn raid - as far as we know - in almost a year, Fatou Felicite Gaye, a 39 year old from the Ivory Coast, and her 4 year old son, Arouna, were snatched from their Sighthill home last week. The raid came only days after the Home Office announced the start of a pilot project designed to prevent the need to detain asylum seeking families. Thanks to vigorous campaigning by supporters of Fatou and Arnou the Home Office have agreed to defer removal directions. But the case raises disturbing questions

Background

Source: The Unity Centre, Glasgow

Fatou Felicite Gaye, a 38 year old single mum who has lived in Scotland since 2005, was woken up by immigration officials early this morning. She was detained with her four year old son, Arouna, who was born in Scotland, and the pair are now in Dungavel facing forced removal from the country on Monday 18 May.

Arouna will be the 21st child detained in Dungavel since the beginning of the year that Unity has found out about. It is not the first time the four year old or his mother have been treated in this way. Fatou, who receives counselling from the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture due to the trauma she experienced in her country of origin, was previously dawn raided in June last year and managed to successfully stop Home Office attempts to forcibly remove her then.

Only on Tuesday this week Fatou had been to report at the Home Office and campaigners at Unity are wondering why on earth the Home Office decided to use such heavy-handed and unnecessary tactics to detain Fatou this morning.

As a single mum with a young son Fatou is low on the list of people who are expected to abscond. She would however be high on the list of people who would have benefitted from taking part in the Alternatives to Detention project launched this week. When the start of the project was announced on Tuesday, Phil Taylor, regional director of the UKBA, was quoted in The Times newspaper asserting that dawn raids were only used when "all other avenues were exhausted" and that "We only detain families as a last resort".

Why was Fatou detained?

Source: The Unity Centre, Glasgow

Fatou's lawyer submitted a fresh claim to the Home Office on Fatou's behalf in Febnuary this year. Fatou and her lawyer were unaware that a decision had been made to refuse this fresh claim until AFTER she was detained by immigration officials forcing their way into her flat at 6.00am this morning.

This totally contradicts any assertion by Phil Taylor that the Home Office use dawn raids only as a last resort. Fatou didn't know she had been refused so had no reason at all to fail to report at the Home Office. We repeat what we said in a previous message. Only on Tuesday this week Fatou had been to report at the Home Office and campaigners at Unity are wondering why on earth the Home Office decided to use such heavy-handed and unnecessary tactics as a dawn raid to detain Fatou this morning.

As a single mum with a young son Fatou is low on the list of people who are expected to abscond. She would however be high on the list of people who would have benefited from taking part in the Alternatives to Detention project launched this week.

The Home Office several months ago introduced a system of putting Red or Green stickers on people's IS96 forms. These forms, often called "signing letters", are the official documents granting people temporary admission to the UK while their asylum case is considered and warning that they could be detained. The letter also identifies the conditions the person must conform to whilst in the UK, namely, where they must live and when and how often they should report.

When people have been to report over the last few months the Home Ofifce have created consternation by putting little Red or Green stickers on this form. When asked about this, the Home Office have explained that the stickers signify whether someone's case is "Appeal Rights Exhausted" or not ie whether the person has finished apealing their case through the Asylum & Immigration Tribunal. (Usually people can appeal their case twice through the AIT .)

Even if people are Appeal Rights Exhausted however it doesn't mean that their case is completely closed as often people can submit a second, fresh case; alternatively they can apply to the High Court / Court of Session for a Judicial Review; they could have won a reconsideration of their case in the High Court or they may have applied to the Europena Court of Human RIghts in Strasbourg or even the House of Lords. The UKBA, however, would like people to think that their case is closed and finished completely if they become Appeal Rights Exhausted, but they're not.

In Fatou Gaye's case, the UKBA officials processing her signing on Tuesday put a GREEN sticker on her IS96 form signifying that on Tuesday, the last time Fatou had any contact with the Home Office before they broke down her door and dragged her and her traumatised son from his bed, the UKBA, explicitly, told Fatou her case WAS STILL GOING and NOT finished.

Why was Arouna subject to a traumatising dawn raid?

Source: The Unity Centre, Glasgow

Fatous's fresh case was partially based on her son developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a consequence of his previous detention by the Home Office.(Fatou and her son had been previously detained for two days in 2007 and for two weeks in June 2008.) In support of this case, letters were submitted by The Royal Hospital for Sick Children; the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture; from a Dr Carruthers and from a Dr Bannuscher.

With such a case it is unbelievable that a four-year old child, that, with some medical evidence, the parent claims suffers from PTSD, as a result of previouos detentions, was subject to a frightening and traumatic dawn raid followed by a third period of detention. Phil Taylor should be asked to justify how the go ahead could be given for such an action. If there is any chance that this child had been traumatised by detention in the past then this family should have been top of the list of families being put into the Alternatives to Detention project.

Victimised to suppress the truth about detention?

Source: The Unity Centre, Glasgow

Fatou's detention shortly before the Alternatives to Detention project was scheduled to start in Glasgow may have something to do with her collecting evidence to set a precedent showing her son had been traumatised by his experience of detention in the UK. When the Home Office contacted the Glasgow office of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture to see what evidence of his PTSD there was, they were told explicitly that the person they were talking to could not give a medical diagnosis because they were not medically qualified to do so, they were also told that such medical evidence would be assessed at Arouna's appointment on 3rd June.

Why didn't the Home Office wait until that assessment was made? Why risk seriously damaging the health of this little boy by detaining him in such a distressing way? Setting such a precedent that showed that her son had been traumatised by his treatment by the Home Office would possibly not just opened the Home Office up to damages for his treatment but possibly every child who has been detained and that such detention, if shown to be damaging, would mean detention of children in the UK would be against the European Convention of Human Rights