Monday, September 18, 2006

Detention of breastfeeding mothers

Letter to the Minister about the detention of breastfeeding mothers. I would have posted the Minister's letter to which this is the reply, but Blogger doesn't accept .tif files generated by IrfanView.
From Lord Avebury

Tel 020-7274 4617

September 16, 2006

Dear Mr Byrne,

Thank you for your letter of September 8, about the case of Mrs Gulten Pirbudak, which I have just seen on returning from holiday.

First, I would hope that whenever you receive a letter from a Peer or an MP, the case in question would need to be examined, and I don’t accept that it was reasonable for this process to take four months.

Second, in Mrs Pirbudak’s account of what happened at Communications House, she says that she repeatedly told the officer that she was breast feeding her son, and after a while this became obvious because her breasts were leaking, a fact that she says was remarked on by officers. You say the IND has no record of Mrs Pirbudak advising them that she was breast feeding her son, and I would be grateful if you would obtain whatever record was made of the interview and let me have a copy. If indeed it doesn’t refer to any statement by Mrs Pirbudak that she was breast feeding, this wouldn’t necessarily mean that she didn’t make such a statement, but it could be that the officer failed to write it down. Did you ask for the interpreter to be questioned on the matter, and if not, will you now do so?

Third, you say it isn’t ‘standard procedure’ to allow individuals to communicate with family members while they are at Communications House, but this presumably means that exceptionally calls are allowed, and Mrs Pirbudak says that another detainee was in fact allowed to use the telephone. She says she begged to use the telephone and explained the situation with the carer, without success. Please let me know under what circumstances detainees are permitted to make calls, and whether the IND have any instructions about mothers who need to make arrangements for their children to be looked after?

There are further discrepancies between Mrs Pirbudak’s account of what happened at Yarl’s Wood, and the recital in your letter, which need to be resolved. She doesn’t refer to the doctor, though it could be that the ‘female officer’ who gave her some pills on Friday evening was in fact the doctor. It could be also that the clean shirt and change of underwear she got on Friday evening also arose from the doctor’s instructions. Could you please let me know whether officers at Yarl’s Wood have any instructions about issuing changer of clothing, and whether they are required to give particular attention to the needs of lactating mothers?

You say that removal directions had been cancelled prior to Mrs Pirbudak’s detention, but the record on the computer hadn’t been updated, a matter of concern as you acknowledge. Thus in both the cases I have drawn to your attention, errors were made, resulting in needless anguish and suffering. I pointed out that both these cases came via one solicitor, and it was reasonable to assume that there were others. I have now asked you three times if you will look to see whether there are other cases of a similar nature – most recently in my emailed letter of August 27 – and I now repeat this request for a fourth time.

You tell me that IND staff are currently updating guidance and are reviewing all aspects of the process for effecting family removals. Will you ask the IND to consult on the draft updated guidance, particularly asking for the comments of the Children’s Commissioner before the new guidance is finalised?

Yours sincerely,

Liam Byrne Esq MP,
Home Office.
2 Marsham Street,
London SW1P 4DF

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