Dear Mr Woolas, all I want for Christmas is...

Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Church leaders havecalled on people to send an extra card this Christmas, toImmigration Minister Phil Woolas MP, asking him to end thedetention of children in the asylum system.

Revd David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference, said:"Britain is the only country in Europe which locks up the innocentchildren of people who have had their asylum claims declined. Everyyear hundreds of children are sent to detention centres; most ofthem are under five years old and many of them are locked up formore than a month. Holding innocent children in detention centrescan never be justified."

People should send their cards to Phil Woolas MP at the HomeOffice, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF and can find tips fordrafting their Christmas message at www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/childrenindetention.

Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union ofGreat Britain, added, "Many Christians support projects that offerhelp to people seeking sanctuary and know the pain caused bypresent policies. On average each household in Britain sends 76Christmas cards each year, and we are asking people to send justone more to let Phil Woolas know that what we really want forChristmas is an end to the detention of children."

Revd John Marsh, Moderator of the United Reformed Church GeneralAssembly, commented: "Policy makers have a difficult job - weunderstand that. But research has shown that detaining children candamage their mental and emotional well-being. We pray that duringthis season of goodwill the Government will have a change of heart.Other countries manage without detaining children, so why shouldBritain be any different?"

The three Churches are supporting the Sanctuary Pledge, which asksall General Election candidates to agree not to use the issue ofpeople seeking sanctuary as a political football during theelection campaign.