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8 October 2005

Condemning the actions of the Immigration Service in respect of the Vujac family from Kosovo

Speech on Emergency Motion at Scottish Lib Dem Party Conference

If ever there was an issue that divides Labour and the Liberal Democrats it is their authoritarian approach compared to our instinctive tolerance and compassion - compared to their natural tendency to come down hard on those with another view.

At the Labour Party Conference, When Walter Wolfgang, the 82 year old, who had been a card carrying member of the Labour party for 57 years - and had escaped Nazi Germany in 1937, had the nerve to accuse Jack Straw’s speech of being less than 100% factual - who would have imagined for a minute what the result would be.

If anyone heckles during this speech, I can guarantee they will not be detained under the prevention of terrorism act.

The motion before you today expresses outrage that in our society we should subject children to dawn raids by immigration officials and that those children should have to experience - what must have felt like being kidnapped by the authorities.

The Children’s Commissioner has made her views clear regarding this treatment. Scotland's Children's Commissioner, Professor Kathleen Marshall, condemned the dawn raids on failed asylum seekers, which she said were "traumatising children and their families".

Those failed asylum seekers who have become well settled into our way of life, acted as law abiding citizens, people who are no threat to society, and who have developed roots in our society – often because of the long delays experienced by those who progressing through the system - deserve to be treated with some dignity.

When families are settled into an area, when their children are at schools. Is it too much to ask for the opportunity to say goodbye to friends?

Yesterday in my constituency advice surgery there were five immigration cases.

One daughter raised the case of her 60-year-old mother imprisoned in China for practicing her religious beliefs. Others were as harrowing.

They are a weekly reminder of what goes on in other parts of the world in other regimes not as tolerant as ours. And while we read in the tabloid press that we are being over-run by immigrants and asylum seekers. I have heard first hand tales of persecution, from people who do not want to be here, who are separated from their families and who just want to go home. But are frightened to do so, because it is just not safe.

One young Zimbabwean told me how he had been arrested by the Mugabe regime for distributing opposition party literature, was desperate to see his wife and young baby, but knew he would be tortured and possibly killed on his return. He and others like him deserve a safe haven - while Mugabe demolishes the homes of his own citizens.

We must keep he Home Secretary under pressure until he can convince us that the experience of the Vucaj family will not be repeated.

This was a family with three teenage children, the youngest just 13, who had lived in Glasgow for 5 years and were flown back to Kosovo.

Eyewitness reports stated the children were wearing pyjamas, and one was wearing handcuffs.

This is not the behaviour of a civilised society, Liberal Democrats at Westminster will keep up the pressure on the Home Secretary on this and in the Scottish Parliament we are in the perfect position to ensure that the education and social welfare of any children involved in such cases is paramount.

Conference - This case is just the tip of the iceberg.

In the months ahead we will have to contend with proposed legislation that will include three months detention without trial and further progress towards compulsory ID cards. Both have the stamp of New Labour’s authoritarian approach all over them. But I ask, “Can New Labour now command even its own supporters?”

On Monday evening I was speaking in a debate in Edinburgh University against compulsory Identity Cards. Each of the six Labour MPs approached, refused to promote the government’s case , I had to make the case for and against ID cards. In the end - I definitely won.

Terrorising children must stop. For a tolerant compassionate & Liberal approach to this problem - Please Support the motion.

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This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.