Friday, March 20, 2009


Monday: Rosaline Costa and friends to lunch and general discussion of the situation in Bangladesh. Afterwards, intervened in a question on Zimbabwe [].

Tuesday: Lunch with Mike Steele and Siphewe Hlope, who runs a charity looking after orphans in Swaziland. Because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this poor country, and the lack of an effective national ARV programme, there are large numbers of orphans, and Ms Hlope helps them in the community. We talked about a project to fund an orphanage where the children could be given basic education as well as food and lodging, and the Silbury Fund is meeting soon to consider a proposal to award Ms Hlope the Silbury Prize to kick start the idea. Peter Hain, the chairman of the trustees, joined us for part of the discussion.

Later, I joined in Shirley Williams' Question on the UK's complicity in acts of torture []. There is a steadily growing volume of evidence, and the Government are gradually being compelled to own up.

After that, a well-attended meeting organised by ABColombia to discuss the UK's policy in Colombia, at which Minister Gilliam Merron MP spoke. I buttonholed her afterwards about email correspondence from Colombia dealing with inititives by campesinos to peacefully organise against the paramilitaries and guerrillas who are constantly encroaching on their lands. There is no registration of land titles in the rural areas, and the UK is trying to help frame the necessary laws.

Then, a meeting to discuss Clause 52 of the Borders etc Bill, which controversially transfers jurisdiction over immigration case judicial review applications from the High Court to the 'Upper Tribunal', where they might be dealt with by a judge of lesser status and experience.

Wednesday, meeting with Minister Bill Brett to look at the amendments for Report stage of the Borders etc Bill. He is writing us a letter which may help to speed the proceedings up, to the extent that we can agree on certain matters we had argued at Committee stage.

Thursday, my own Question on the treatment of destitute asylum seekers, a scandal which has been highlighted repeatedly - most recently in a report which details graphic interviews with some of the victims. There are probably about 200,000 'legacy cases' of ancient failed asylum seekers, and the Government admits they won't all be reviewed until July 2011. Meanwhile they live a twilight existence on the edges of society, some of them working illegally for shamefully low wages.

Later, a meeting with Olivier Bancoult, Leader of the Chagos Refugees Group. They are backing our amendments to the Borders Bill, to give British citizenship to the islanders who would have been entitled to it if the Government hadn't evicted them from their homeland.

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