Mothers and other parents and carers at Kingsgate Primary School in Camden, London, are circulating the letter below urging their children's school to oppose the government plan to detain children seeking asylum so they can no longer attend school with other children. We strongly object to this segregation. And we object to the aim of the policy as stated by the Home Secretary (overleaf): that children must be divided from each other because communities (children, parents, schools and local papers), far from being hostile, are too supportive. We cannot let our children and communities be divided in this way as this can only encourage racism and victimisation from which we will all suffer. As James Baldwin said: "If they come for you in the morning, they’ll come for me at night."
We urge other parents and schools to join us – the initiative has already been taken up by parents at Hampstead School (Camden) and Carlton Nursery (Brent), and a number of teachers have expressed their support. The Kilburn Times quotes the Hammersmith & Fulham MP saying that he has been contacted by a number of head-teachers and other school staff.
What teachers at Kingsgate Primary School have said:
Time is short: the Nationality, Immigration & Asylum Bill is being debated in the House of Lords from Monday 24 June. Don't let them decide about our children without hearing from us, the carers, who have their welfare most at heart.
What you can do
LET THE HOUSE OF LORDS KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!
For the Cross Bench (i.e. independent):
For the Conservatives:
We would be glad to talk to mothers, fathers and other carers, governors, teachers and other school and nursery staff about this.
Please send us a copy of your signed letter so we can circulate it:
17 June 2002
Dear Teachers, Staff & Governors at Kingsgate School,
We are writing as mothers and other parents and carers with children in Kingsgate to urge you to protest against the government's plans to force children who are seeking asylum from living and being "educated" in detention centres away from mainstream schools.
During the Commons debate on the latest immigration and asylum legislation, the Home Secretary David Blunkett revealed the government's real reason for keeping children out of schools and nurseries: "It is virtually impossible to drag a family away from a neighbourhood school. Local papers run local campaigns to stop people being removed. But if I don't have a removal policy and the government doesn't have a removal policy, we have no bounds, borders or asylum or immigration policy. We might just as well say: Invite everyone in." (11 June 2002) Recently released figures also show that residents are four times more likely to be sympathetic to asylum seekers than hostile.
The Home Secretary's comments and the above figures prove what those of us with children in schools and nurseries with many immigrant and refugee children have always known and said: that communities do support immigrants' and asylum seekers' right to be here and do not want them detained or deported.
What communities object to, which the government and some media then turn against immigrants, is having to compete even further for scarce resources. We notice that there is no lack of money for wars that the UK is in some way involved in, and no lack of will to sell arms to dictatorships and other repressive governments, all of which cause people to emigrate to escape the resulting devastation and poverty. (80% of displaced people worldwide are women and children.) We also note that while low income taxpayers are encouraged to blame immigrants for our difficulties, corruption at every level exempts large corporations from paying the taxes they owe which could pay for education, health, affordable housing and other basic needs.
The government is so determined to cut off every support immigrant and asylum seeking children enjoy that it wants to take them away from our schools and communities, denying their human rights and the protection of the Children Act.
The new law will be devastating for all the children and ethos of Kingsgate, a multiracial school with children from 30 different nationalities and many of them refugees from "interminable war zones". We strongly believe that all our children, starting with English children, have greatly benefited from growing up in an integrated environment where they can make friends and be educated with children from all over the world. These invaluable relationships must be defended and strengthened. There is no better anti-racist education for our children, so vital for a caring society, than to grow up in a multiracial school which is ready to defend its most vulnerable pupils and would-be pupils. What better way to learn first hand that others don't need, want or deserve less than yourself? This is an education many of us unfortunately did not get as we grew up and had to learn from our children.
We know Kingsgate is very concerned about racism, sexism and other bullying which pupils and staff are constantly vigilant about. The law, which is going to the House of Lords next week, will undermine this work as it establishes an unprecedented apartheid system for some children in this country. Separate is never equal - many of us opposed and celebrated the end of separate education in South Africa. We don't want it here.
Schools have a responsibility to protect and defend the education and welfare of all our children. We therefore urge the school to publicly oppose the segregation of any children on whatever pretext, and to be in touch with other schools and nurseries which also oppose it. There is such a thing as society and all our children and their families are part of it regardless of where they come from.
We would be glad to meet with other parents, governors, teachers and other staff about this.
Kay Chapman and 18 other mothers