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Child detention issue reached High Court; `unlawful’ say mothers

Two women have alleged detention caused serious harm 27th October 2010: Child detention issue has reached the High Court. Describing it as unlawful, two women have contended that their children’s detention over immigration issues has resulted in serious harm.
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On the other hand, the lawyers for the Home Secretary have defended the action by saying family detention policy was "workable and lawful". They contended family detention was the last resort to remove failed asylum seekers from the UK. Children were only held in detention as long as was necessary, they argued.

The issue has been raised by asylum seekers Reetha Suppiah (37) from Malaysia and Nigerian Sakinat Bello (25). Arrested in February 2009, the two were taken to Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, along with their children, and spent between 12 and 17 days there.

Pending the legal challenges after detention, the families were allowed back into the community.

Representing the families, Rabinder Singh QC, said the policy on detention was incapable of being operated lawfully in the absence of safeguards to stop minors from suffering distress and trauma.
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He said serious harm was routinely caused to detained children; and the immigration detention system was afflicted by fundamental structural problems.

Rabinder Singh claimed Suppiah’s eldest 11-year-old boy was badly affected and lived "in continuous fear of re-arrest".

The High Court in London heard from Rabinder Singh that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had termed child detention as "moral outrage" in Parliament in July; and had asserted ending it was essential to restoring a sense of decency and liberty

Only recently, the announcement by Immigration Minister Damian Green to minimise detention of children, than to end it completely, fetched criticism from various quarters.

The government was accused of dumping its promise to end the detention of children in immigration centers.

Two months after Nick Clegg told MPs, the coalition would deliver on its pledge to end the controversial practice, Damian Green, the immigration minister, had revealed that the government only intended to "minimise" the number of child detainees.

In a statement released by the Home Office Green stated the government’s intention remained to end child detention. He said that significant progress had been made in working towards the commitment to end child detention for immigration purposes. They were currently piloting some proposed changes to their approach developed with partners.

He asserted that they had already announced that the family unit at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre would close. The coalition agreement released in May stated that they would be ending the detention of children for immigration purposes.
 
The Lib Dems had hailed the policy as a sign of their influence within the Tory-led coalition. During his speech to the Commons in July, Clegg criticised the Labour government for committing a "moral outrage" by detaining 1,000 children held with their families while awaiting removal from the UK last year.

The deputy prime minister, who announced the closure of the Yarl’s Wood detention centre’s family unit, had pledged to restore a sense of decency and liberty to the way they conducted themselves.

The government’s policy shift emerged in answer to a question by the Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland over the long-term future of Yarl’s Wood following the decision to close the family and child wing.

Green replied that it was their intention to minimise the detention of children in the future as a whole and, therefore, that aspect of Yarl’s Wood’s use would disappear, but clearly not its use for adult women.

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