St John’s RC Primary School, Rochdale, is to hold a rally today as part of its campaign to prevent the deportation of seven asylum-seeking children and their families.
School children will join a procession along the streets of Rochdale to a local church, where a mass will be held in support of children’s rights. Children and teachers at the school are expected to be joined by local MPs, the deputy mayor, councillors, school governors, representatives of the Salford Diocesan Commission for Faith and Justice and a representative of the Bishop of Salford.
The seven children at St John’s who are under imminent threat of deportation have attended the school for more than three years. Headteacher Jed Morgan started the anti-deportation campaign three weeks ago, after one of the pupils at his school, who had lived in Rochdale for over four years, was deported to Angola. ‘To deport children and their families after being allowed to live within a community for such a length of time is nothing less than child abuse’, he said. ‘Numerous letters have been written from school to the Home Office and to the Prime Minister but none of the issues raised have been addressed or even commented upon in the replies.’
More than two thousand people have signed a petition in support of the campaign at St John’s, stating that ‘deportation is not in the best interests of the child’. The school is focusing its campaign on the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child which states that governments should place the best interest of the child above other considerations in its decision-making. Britain has signed the Convention but has obtained an opt-out in the area of immigration decisions.
As part of the anti-deportation campaign, many of the school children have made their own posters and pictures to send to the prime minister. One poster asks, ‘Why send our friends to their deaths?’ These pictures, along with the petition, will be presented to 10 Downing Street on 6 June 2005. Jed Morgan and a number of parent representatives are also hoping to meet the newly appointed immigration minister Tony McNulty.