Monday, 10 January 2011

Notes from Siva's bail-hearing

Here are some notes made by Caroline Beatty when she attended Siva's bail-hearing on 31st December as guarantor for Siva's surety:

Background notes and report on bail hearing 31.12.10
Sivarajah Suganthan, aged 26, originally from Sri Lanka, has two young children by a British citizen. He was detained on 7th December. He was taken to the Sri Lankan High Commission to get an “emergency travel document” on 22nd December, but has not yet been given Removal Directions. He is now being held in Dover Immigration Removal Centre. He does not have a solicitor acting for him at present.

He hopes to put in a fresh claim / application for reconsideration on the grounds of community support and involvement, as well as the rights of his children to access to their father.

His former solicitor in Gloucester made a bail application 2 weeks ago, on the grounds that he was being held in detention without any date set for removal. The hearing was listed for Feltham Park on 21st December and then cancelled. It was re-listed for Central London on 31st December 2010. Siva was ‘present’ via a video link. I was present at the hearing in my capacity as surety. The solicitor was on leave.

The hearing was a farce, with serious consequences for Siva, for the following reasons:

  1. Siva had not been given a bail summary (setting out the Home Office argument). It was only given to him 4 days after the hearing took place.
  2. Siva did not have a legal representative. UKBA and the court had been informed this would be the case.
  3. As the surety I was present but not allowed to speak or be in the video frame.

The judge asked the Home Office to speak first to oppose bail. In his statement the HO
spokesman :

  1. Did not mention that Siva has children in UK
  2. Did not mention the first, failed, attempt to document him as a Sri Lankan national
  3. Did not mention that after the failure to document him, he was given Temporary Admission again and a monthly reporting condition
  4. Did not mention that Siva has complied with all requirements to sign at Cheltenham police station between 2006 and December 2009 – every month.
  5. Did not mention Siva’s second application for asylum in 2010, in an attempt to regularise his position
  6. Did not mention his young age on arrival in UK
  7. Did not mention that he has no family

The Home Office spokesman gave wrong information as follows:
  1. Stated ‘brought by family’ to UK. This is incorrect: he came into UK with a couple that he did not know
  2. Stated that he had not followed reporting conditions between 2006 and 2010
  3. Being not allowed to work and without support at the time, Siva has a minor conviction for taking sandwiches and drinks from TESCOs in order to survive. He served 13 weeks of a 26 week sentence. The Home Office said that he was “imprisoned for 39 weeks” suggesting a significantly more serious offence
  4. Stated Siva would not reside with the surety (it was clearly stated that he would do so)
  5. Stated that there was only one surety (in fact we had details for a second surety offering the same recognizance)

Home Office reasons for opposing bail given in the bail summary:

Altogether 10 reasons were given for opposing bail, 8 of which are based on wrong or incomplete information.

After the Home Office statement the judge asked Siva why he should be given bail.

As Siva had not seen the bail summary, he was entirely unprepared, either for the Home office statement with all its misinformation, or to defend himself at all. When he tried to speak, for example to explain that he had not “absconded”, but had signed every month as required, the judge interrupted, and did not let him finish. He said that he saw no reason to grant bail, and the application was therefore refused.

Caroline Beatty
Welcome Centre Manager
Bristol Refugee Rights
Tuesday, 04 January 2011


Monday, 27 December 2010

Newspapers, radio and a Christmas message.

While Siva remains in Dover IRC, in amazingly good spirits given the deception and frustration he's had to deal with in the last week (see our previous post), the campaign by his friends and supporters to publicise his case continues with cover from local newspapers and radio, and a new petition.

Christmas Eve saw the article 'Detention of asylum seeker Sivarajah Suganthan sparks Bristol protest' by Emily Koch appear in the Bristol Evening Post. On the same day, Caroline Beatty was heard speaking about Siva to Ben Prater of BBC Radio Bristol on his drive-time show. It can be heard on the BBC Bristol website (from 1:51.51 into the broadcast) until Thursday 30th Dec. And a new petition, this time directed for the attention of Damian Green MP, is currently accepting signatures.

For the close future, Siva's hoping to have a bail hearing on 31st Dec, and in the meantime he sends this typically buoyant and large-hearted Christmas message:

"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Forget the past, feel the moments, and plan the future. Best wishes to the thoughts."


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Update on Siva's case, Wednesday 22/12/10

Yesterday we were all hopeful for Siva as we were told that he would be
attending a bail hearing today, and that he was being moved to Colnbrook from
Dover for this reason.

However, we sadly found out this morning that Siva had been lied to and was
moved, during the night in bad weather, to Colnbrook so that he could be taken
to the Sri Lankan High Commission in London for travel documents, the next step
towards his removal.

Siva has been misinformed and kept in the dark about what is happening to him,
and we are very worried about his treatment.

Siva’s case has hit another problem: his solicitor has gone on holiday for
Christmas. He cannot see a new solicitor whilst in Colnbrook, which is a short
term detention facility, but we very much hope he will be taken back to Dover,
and then he can attend a meeting with a solicitor there tomorrow. The greatest
threat to Siva right now is that he is left without any legal representation over
Christmas, a time when traditionally many detainees are swiftly deported as
many legal staff are on holiday.

We are calling on Stephen Williams to ensure that Siva is not deported during
this time when he is unrepresented. The most important thing at the moment is
that Siva is properly represented by a solicitor, so that he has the best possible
chance of fighting this deportation.

We want to thank everyone who has been out protesting in the snow, as well as
Friends of Dover Detainees, and Friends of Colnbrook Detainees groups for their
support to Siva. Please continue to think of Siva over the Christmas period, and
let your friends know about the continuing breach of Siva’s human rights.


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Fair Play For Siva campaign and demos.

From the first moment that Siva's friends heard that he had been detained, a campaign to halt any attempt of deportation was launched, including demonstrations in Bristol, petitions (on paper and online) and a media campaign.

The first demonstration took place on Wednesday 8th Dec, the morning after he was detained. Volunteers from Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR) and the Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign (BDASC) gathered outside Trinity Road police station, where Siva was held.

The following week saw the start of the Fair Play For Siva campaign, using a cricketing theme for demonstrations held each day from Monday 13th to Friday 17th on College Green in Bristol. In rain, sun and snow, friends and supporters donned whites clothes, made and held placards, carried the BRR banner, played cricket, sung and played musical intruments, and gave petitions for passers-by to sign. On Friday, Caroline Beatty was able to present a petition of 750 names to Siva's MP, Stephen Williams, who is also supporting Siva's claim.

Scenes from the Fair Play For Siva demos on College Green, 13th-17th Dec.

Caroline Beatty presenting Stephen Williams MP with a petition of 750 signatures supporting Siva's case.

There has also been contact with the media, with mentions in the Bristol Evening Post and an article on the bristol.indymedia site. And most prominently, on Thursday morning BBC Bristol broadcast a telephone interview with Siva talking from Dover followed by a live interview with Caroline. The interview can be heard on BBC Bristol's website (until Thurs 23) starting at 51m49s into the broadcast. Siva talks about how the UK feels like his home and that the lifestyle, food and places of the UK "are all in my body now."

The power of online social networking has been put to use for the campaign with a page on facebook and a profile on twitter. And there has been a very active team of researchers and correspondents working behind the scenes to ensure that Siva's case remains alive and as fully informed as possible, and to ensure that his right to remain is defended as strongly as possible.


About Siva

Siva is an inspiration.

He's a 26-year old Bristol resident and a very talented member of two cricket teams, an extraordinary chef who regularly cooks for around 130 people at a welcome centre in Bristol, a father a two young sons, and a leading member of a drama group (he was due to play the central role in a play on Human Rights Day before he was detained).

But despite a fortnight in which Siva has been taken away from family and friends, detained in a solitary cell, fasting and without water, he remains in good spirits.

Siva has spent all his adult life in the UK, arriving at the age of 14 from Sri Lanka where his parents were killed when he was a young child. In the 12 years since he's been in the UK, he's contributed to community life in various important ways. For example, his skills as a chef allowed the Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR) group to continue its service of supplying dinner for around 130 people when the centre found itself without chefs during Ramadhan, and he's been feeding BRR members regularly since. From the age of 18, Siva has been appealing for the right to remain in this country where he has built a life.

On 7th December, Siva was detained at the police station where he was signing on and was subsequently detained at Campsfield, Colnbrook and Dover detention centres. His friends and supporters immediately started a campaign to halt any attempt to deport him, a campaign which has so far included petitions, radio interviews, presentations to his MP, and more. For two weeks, Siva fasted in protest against his detention, and also refused water for four days.

This blog will follow the progress of Siva's case and the campaigning efforts of his friends who are supporting him.