<i>IoS</i> letters, emails & online postings (18 July 2010)

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The Independent Online

Your story about the UK Border Agency blocking visits by children from Chernobyl to this country is just the latest example of random injustice from this out-of-control organisation ("Chernobyl's children refused entry to UK", 11 July). There seems to be no limit to the agency's powers, and it acts with the arrogance and brutality of a cross between the Gestapo, Stasi and KGB. Dawn raids on defenceless asylum-seekers, forced deportations, "removal centres" run like prisons – one wonders just what the selection process must be and what the job descriptions say.

I served in the UK's armed forces for many years. Returning alone recently from an overseas posting through Heathrow, I was subjected to some very rude questioning by a border guard about where I had been, for what reason and for how long. When I travel with my wife, who has been a British citizen for 40 years but has an Italian forename, she is routinely kept longer than me at immigration and subjected to similarly rude questioning. When she returns from Italy alone on a one-way air ticket, she now has to provide her passport details to the airline when booking; otherwise she may not be allowed to board.

For many visitors, the UKBA is their first experience of British hospitality. The reception they get makes me thoroughly ashamed to be British. Whatever the arguments for securing our national borders, this odious organisation is not the way to do it.

Andrew Whiteley

Andover, Hampshire

In your special report last week on "the lost generation", the British Youth Council was cited as one of the "culprits" following "an analysis of company job adverts" which showed that "unpaid internships can now last for more than 12 months".

The British Youth Council is in fact a national charity, led by young people. We provide volunteering opportunities which are not only highly supported but give young people the chance to contribute to the cause of the charity (giving young people a voice in decisions that affect their lives). These volunteering opportunities are distinct from internships with companies, as they not only develop employability skills but are also helping others.

We share the concerns raised in the article about the growing and disproportionate number of young people facing unemployment, and have been calling on the Government to tell us how they will ensure that all young people are able to achieve a decent standard of living through work.

Alex Delaney

Chair, British Youth Council

London SE1

Why not offer a "green gap year" to students between school and university; as a form of purposeful and peaceful national service? Teenagers could undertake, say, six months' work of community benefit, in pursuit of sustainability or projects to address climate change in a local community, in exchange for an educational credit equivalent to their first year's tuition fee (currently £3,000 per head).

In this way, young people could serve society, gain life and study skills, and be helped to make the transition from school and dependence, to university and greater independence.

James Derounian

National Teaching Fellow

University of Gloucestershire

Unpaid internships rig the jobs market in favour of young people from wealthy homes, usually from public schools, since only they can afford to rent a room in another city and work without a salary for months on end. So it's no surprise that one of the worst offenders is Iain Duncan Smith's laughably entitled Centre for Social Justice, which requires interns to work unpaid for 11 months.

Christopher Clayton

Christleton, Cheshire

We are asked: "Has there ever been a tougher time to be a twentysomething?" Well, how about between 1939-1945? In fact, any member of the working class who reached their majority before 1950 probably had a pretty tough time.

As a teacher and the mother of three twentysomething sons, I am acutely aware of the employment problems facing our young people. However, when composing eye-catching headlines, can you please get a sense of proportion?

Jane Railton

Coventry

Clive Holland's soldier prime ministers (Letters, 11 July) did not include our greatest postwar prime minister, Clement Attlee.

Rising to the rank of major in the South Lancashire Regiment, he served in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and France, from 1914-19. He was twice wounded.

On another occasion he was evacuated from Gallipoli seriously ill with dysentery, but insisted on being returned before full recovery. Typically, he never criticised Churchill for instigating the Dardanelles campaign (contrary to most "informed" opinion), but considered it one of the most imaginative ideas of the war, frustrated by blunders on the ground. That was the nature of the man.

Peter Metcalfe

Stevenage, Hertfordshire

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Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; email: sundayletters@independent.co.uk (with address, no attachments, please); fax: 020 7005 2627; online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2010/July/18

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