Another controversy born at Yarl’s Wood; 100 days detention for baby

`Force used to separate kids from families’

24th March 2010: Just over a month after the surfacing of reports on mothers going on a hunger strike after being separated from their children at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, a damning report has revealed a baby spent 100 days in detention at the centre.

In her report, chief inspector of prisons Dame Anne Owers has also talked about the use of force against children twice during last year to separate them from families to carry out deportations.

Quoting examples, the report says force was used to split up a family of six to remove father and two children. The youngest child was removed by force from his father’s grip.

A 10-year-old child was taken by force into the departure area after refusing to leave his mother." A pregnant mother too was forcibly placed and held in a wheelchair after she refused to move after being separated from her three-year-old son.

Owers has categorically asserted young children were being held unnecessarily at an immigration detention centre. Her assertion is based on the fact that 50 per cent of the 420 children detained at the centre were later released into the community over a six-month period. The action raised questions about the necessity of detaining them.

She has also referred to "troubling" concerns over the welfare of youngsters detained at the centre in Bedfordshire.

The chief inspector has added in some cases even the ministers were not given details of the damage the process of locking up the children was causing to them before decisions to prolong their detention were made.

The report comes within a month of another report with similar findings by the Children’s Commissioner. It said Yarl’s Wood was "distressing and harmful" for children, despite recent improvements in conditions.

The reports giving details of the appalling conditions come soon after Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Meg Hillier insisted there are registered on-site counsellors who work with children and their families taking a holistic approach to meet the families’ needs.

She had added `detention is only used when people have refused to leave the country voluntarily, despite support being offered for them to do so, and we have to enforce that removal. Detention is a vital tool in the removal of failed asylum seekers, ex-foreign national prisoners and others whose application to stay have been fully considered by the UK Border Agency and the independent Courts but have failed.

`The cases of those in detention continue to be examined. However, individual detainees frequently prolong detention and removal with the use of judicial reviews or obstructive behaviour’. (See:

Already, lawyers have been granted permission to challenge conditions at the immigration removal centre on behalf of four women who went on hunger strike. They have alleged "systematic disregard for human dignity". (Refer to:

The detention centre has been in controversy since long. Three doctors at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre are in the dock. They are facing inquiry by the General Medical Council.

The inquiry follows complaints alleging substandard patient care; and a series of negative reports bringing to the fore inadequate healthcare at the centre. (Also see:

Treatment waits, as child asylum seekers face interviews

Living in Britain, jobless migrants can claim benefits for children back home