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Thursday 24 April 2008
Brutal treatment of deportees being flown out of Britain
Sir: What happened to Ayodeji Omotade was shocking, but what happened to the Nigerian who was being deported was far worse ("Nigerians back BA boycott after deportation flight row", 21 April).
I have now met nine detainees who have been severely injured on attempted removal. Their removals had failed, otherwise I would not have met them in the detention centres by Heathrow, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook. I am a doctor and I go in to assess the extent of the injuries these young men have sustained. As I write up their cases a pattern has emerged.
If resistance is expected, the detainees are given little warning of their departure. They are escorted by at least two guards, and trussed up at ankle and thigh. Handcuffs bite into their wrists; I have seen severe cuts on the wrists.
They are forced into the back entry of the plane and held down in the seat, their heads pushed down behind the seat in front. If they try to shout they are gripped around the neck until they fear they will suffocate, and sometimes there is also a grip behind their ears. Some of them have told me they thought they were going to die. They cry out in fear, sure that someone will be waiting for them in their own country with prison or torture.
Sometimes the pilot, unlike the British Airways captain in this case, refuses to take them because their human rights are being violated, or because it is too disruptive for the other passengers. If passage is refused, the escorts are furious, because they will lose their overtime payments which are equivalent to a bounty for each successful deportation, and they continue to abuse their prisoner in the van on the way back to the detention centre, kicking and racially abusing them.
We are behaving like the most brutal regimes from their own countries. They are completely surprised, as they had survived horrible treatment in their own country and thought they would be safe here.
We should all stand up in the planes and refuse to let someone be treated like that. Mr Omotade should get a medal, not have his money stolen. We should boycott British Airways if that is the way they treat their passengers. There should be an inquiry as to why the police collude with this behaviour.
It is happening, it is happening here, and we must stop it, for our silence is collusion.
Charmian Goldwyn MB BS
Landscape lost to wind farms
Sir: Your leading article of 22 April implies that the Scottish Government and the people of Lewis are shirking the difficult decisions in refusing permission for a massive wind farm on the island.
The Government rejected the hard decisions long ago when it decided it was easier to industrialise extensive areas of rural Scotland than to pass legislation to stop the appalling waste of energy we are already generating, or to insist that these energy factories be sited close to the end user. The cost of these rural wind farms in money and environmental and landscape destruction is out of all proportion to the resulting product, as pointed out by many commentators, including Dominic Lawson in the same edition of the paper. But these developments are popular with governments because they are a very visible demonstration that "we are doing our bit to reduce global warming."
However, let nobody worry that the Lewis decision will hold up the race to renewable energy. There are large numbers of wind farm proposals at different stages of the planning and construction process in northern Scotland (seven in my neighbourhood in Moray). As long as no serious measures are being taken in this country to combat CO2 emissions by reducing energy use, most of these will probably go ahead, in the teeth of local protest , environmental and landscape protection designations and common sense. If we are expected to sacrifice landscapes and ecosystems on a grand scale for a dubious greater good, what are city-dwellers sacrificing?
I would advise anyone who loves the Scottish landscape to revisit it soon, before a great deal of it is permanently homogenised by huge white windmills.
Sir: Dominic Lawson's analysis that the UK's support for renewable energy is "extravagant" and "irrelevant" in the face of a recession (Opinion, 22 April) could not be more wrong. The real problem is that the UK is doing too little – and therefore missing out on the potentially huge economic benefits of embracing this safe and clean technology.
A comparison with Germany is sobering. The UK generates just under 5 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, Germany 15 per cent. Our renewables industry employs 7,000 people and has a turnover of just £290m. Meanwhile, driven by "feed-in tariff" legislation, which guarantees a premium price for all renewable electricity generated by homes and businesses, the same industry in Germany employs 249,000 people, has a turnover of €24bn and last year grew by 10 per cent.
Far from being something to put aside in times of economic uncertainty, government action to support renewable energy in the UK will insulate our economy against the damaging effects of volatile international fossil fuel markets and generate jobs. What's more, it will help put the UK at the forefront of international efforts to tackle global climate change.
Economics Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, London N1
Banks must go back to sound principles
Sir: Sir Fred Goodwin, Royal bank of Scotland's chief executive officer, is quoted as saying that: "There have been times when we [he means "I"] haven't understood what has been going on in the markets. We are in good company there." The latter point would be well recognised by any infant teacher: "It wasn't only me, Miss, they did it as well!" The first admission shows that either RBS were in the wrong market or the wrong person is leading them, probably both.
It is said that for technical reasons the offer of his huge bonus cannot be withdrawn. No problem there. He can, at the AGM, admit that he does not deserve it, and refuse it.
RBS must realise, in common with some other banks, that the games they have played over the last few years, consorting with hedge funds, derivatives, "securitisation", and other such gambling devices and relying on the three-month inter-bank money market, must stop and the bank must return to acting and lending according to sound if old-fashioned banking principles, which ultimately never change.
If they do not, the same situation will occur again, and then the rights issue avenue would not be available (it cannot be done twice). Of course if that meant RBS closing its doors (going into liquidation) then the Northern Rock business would be as nothing compared with what would happen then. The country could well lose its position as a leading financial centre, with all that that would entail for our prosperity; a major disaster.
Fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers, London SW16
Abortion, Ulster's dark little secret
Sir: Hurrah for Joan Smith ("If women ruled the world", 19 April). At last, someone with the courage and confidence to raise openly Northern Ireland's dark little secret: the repression and oppression of Ulsterwomen as a consequence of abortion's virtual illegal status there.
There is only one Northern Ireland party which has a policy of extending the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland: the Progressive Unionist Party, which also has the distinction of being the only party there with a woman leader. For a brief time, Sinn Fein had a progressive policy on abortion, but the Catholic Church had a quiet word and the party leadership to a man bent the knee and recanted.
In the coming weeks, the Abortion Act faces serious attack in Parliament as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is debated. The specific target of anti-abortionists is the 24-week limit which they want cut to 20 to whittle away at women's rights, as has happened in America.
If they succeed, the small proportion of women in desperate circumstances requiring access to late abortions, including women from the island of Ireland who need time to raise money for the fare to Britain and the cost of the abortion, will be hard hit.
Abortion Rights, the national campaigning organisation for a woman's right to choose, has called a lobby of Parliament to ensure MPs feel the strength of pro-choice opinion ahead of key votes.
Death on the rail tracks is not funny
Sir: I'm not surprised that train drivers are protesting about the film Three and Out (report, 22 April). I saw the trailer last week and I couldn't believe that anyone could consider it a source of humour.
Many years ago I had a friend who was a Tube driver and someone falling under the train was every driver's nightmare. One poor man was given two weeks off when a suicide jumped in front of his train; on his first day back at work the same thing happened again and he never drove another train. He certainly didn't need a third, and nobody seemed to find it remotely amusing!
Murky goings-on in the PR universe
Sir: Kristin Syltevik of Hotwire PR wonders if she inhabits a parallel universe (letters, 17 April) because she doesn't recognise our account of the public relations industry. Perhaps she does. A survey published this week reveals that more than 60 per cent of Britain's population believes public relations people "often lie". Maybe it is the PR industry that is somewhat out of touch.
The other correspondent that day, Colin Farringdon, of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), wants us to ignore the dubious practices of PR's "bad apples" and see PR as a hallmark of democracy. But in reality many PR agencies will work for anyone, including undemocratic governments, for a fee.
The PR and lobbying industries repeatedly insist they are "open and transparent". In reality, much PR and lobbying activities are covert and opaque.
The Public Administration Select Committee is holding an inquiry into lobbying, where the industry (including the CIPR) is busy resisting transparency in relation to their clients, fees and the tactics they use to influence decision-makers and democracy.
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Funds for humanity, not for 'martyrs'
Sir: In "You ask the questions" (14 April) the East London Mosque is singled out as an alleged host for collecting "funds for martyrs", but Ed Hussain presents no evidence of this from his days as a misguided and delusional extremist.
Every week, the East London Mosque hosts fund-raisers for established charitable organisations who have collected funds for the tsunami in South-east Asia, the Bangladesh Cyclone Appeal, Famine Namibia and the present crisis in Darfur. In keeping with our ethos of serving humanity, regardless of creed or colour, we will continue to aid worthy causes.
Mr Hussain may be referring to his former friends who, surreptitiously and without permission, collected funds outside the walls of our institution. In recollecting his visits to the East London Mosque, he attempts to impose his quaint message of extremism here, there and everywhere.
But as Ziauddin Sardar, who reviewed Mr Hussain's book in your newspaper, said, "the vast majority of young British Muslims have more sense of critical acumen" than Mr Hussain to have fallen for such nonsense.
Honorary Secretary, East London Mosque, London E1
Sir: President Hillary Clinton says she would not hesitate to obliterate Iran if that country dared to attack Israel. But Americans want to know: would she make a better job of it than President McCain?
Burradoo, New South Wales, Australia
Tax and spend
Sir: I have just received my pension slip for April. Because of the disappearance of the 10p rate of income tax, my monthly pension has now gone down from £114.76 to £105.34 – slightly less than it was in 2000. This represents a loss of income of £113.04 per annum – not easy for a 78-year-old with a pension around the £5,000 mark. There must be a lot of others like me. Can I claim a new kitchen on expenses?
Dr Pat Hill-Cottingham
First cuckoo, at last
After your front page on 21 April ("The great migration crisis") I felt quite dispirited. But I've just returned from walking the dog in our local woods, and as well as seeing masses of primroses, violets and bluebells, I heard my first cuckoo of the year – and on St George's Day. It really cheered me up.
Types of Tory
Sir: Richard Neil (Letters, 23 April) hopes that teachers who may strike get the Tory government they deserve. Could he just remind them, and the rest of us, which brand we already have at the moment?
Sir: On holiday in Norfolk last week I bought my Saturday's copy of The Independent at Morrisons Supermarket in Cromer. On scanning the paper at check-out the employee was prompted by the machine to confirm that I was over 21 before authorising the sale. Is this evidence that The Independent is indeed a grown-up read or is it yet another attempt by this Big Brother government to try to withhold information and suppress criticism?
Ian Rutherford (aged 61 3/4)
Sir: Louise Russell takes meaning from first buying The Independent on a day when it happened to contain an article on spiritualism. Might not this coincidence be more down to probability? How many spiritualists did not buy the Indy for the first time that day?
Horsham, West Sussex
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