Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Where things stand for Precious and Florence Mhango - who knows?

I said in this post here that my next blog post would be an update on where we are with the campaign to save Florence and Precious Mhango. And I fully intended to but in between times I've gone and got some flu like condition and it was hard to concentrate on it. The dog dirt and X factor type posts don't require a great deal of thought. This does.

However, as always happens with flu, you get windows of being able to sit up straight and function so whilst that window's open (!) I'll hing oot it and shout as loud as I can.

Right now, the bottom line is that we have not got a clue what is happening and if that is stressful for the big team of campaigners, it must be torturous for the Mhangos.

There would be nothing to wait for had the Home Office lawyers not raised objections to them having a judicial review. I don't always get this totally accurate not being from a legal background (although given the circumstances perhaps my drama background is more useful anyway) but I'm learning as I go and I think I've more or less got it right.

Normally the Home Office would have released them pending their review which would take place sometime next year - possibly April, May, June time. On release they would come back to Glasgow. They could be free. They could be with their friends. They would have a chance to gather more evidence for their legal team.

But no, the Home Office lawyers objected and asked for a High Court judge to throw their application out. They have also stated that if the judge agrees to that and they appeal, the impending appeal will not be a barrier to them being put on a flight and deported anyway. And finally, in case the judge agrees to the judicial review being granted, they've asked for it to be expedited ie brought forward. Given how long just making that decision has taken, if it IS expedited, it's not going to be before January and the home office is clearly hoping to keep them in Yarls Wood until then. What a lovely Christmas that will be for ten year old Precious.

OK so I had already written to Phil Woolas, Minister of State for the UK Border Agency. I got a "courtesy" call from his office saying the usual - get lost you're only an msp and I don't speak to msps! (For the avoidance of doubt, I'm paraphrasing.)

He replied to John Mason, he being the Mhangos' MP and basically said get lost I'm not doing anything! Again, I'm paraphrasing.

So on Saturday 5 December I sent an urgent letter to Alan Johnson MP, the Home Secretary. Here's the letter I sent. I think I said in the letter that I believe he came into politics to help vulnerable people and I understood it was his dept's lawyers who had raised these objections so I was not blaming him. I was however, asking him to intervene and drop the objections so that they could go home and have their review next year.


I'm angry now. I'm thinking that perhaps I'm giving him more credit than he deserves. I honestly believed I would hear something within a few days given the urgency of the situation. And I truly believed when I followed it up with an email about Precious' current physical and mental condition he would act immediately.

Bear in mind, I've not gone into detail with anyone but I did with him. He knows exactly how traumatised Precious was and that was ten days ago. So why is she still in there? Why is this child still locked up?

If the judge has not made a decision there is still time for interventions to be made at a political level and for the objections to be dropped. Then we won't have to wait for a judge's decision, they can come home for Christmas and work with their legal team on what they know is likely to be their final chance to prove that they should live in Scotland.

I hear Phil Woolas visited Dungavel today. Well I hope he reflected on what he is allowing this ten year old child (amongst many others) to go through. And I hope he will do something urgently. I also urge Alan Johnson to have a heart and stop what is happening to her. And I had a 15 minute phone appointment with another UK government minister last week who promised to look into it. I hope he shows more compassion than the other two because locking children up is fundamentally WRONG and keeping Precious Mhango and her mother there for 27 days and counting, is an absolute disgrace.

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