`Children of illegal immigrants should not be separated from parents’: UKBA

‘Treating children with care is UKBA’s priority’

18th February 2010: The UK Border Agency has claimed that it is against the separation of children from their parents at immigration detention centers.

The assertion is significant as an estimated 80 mothers detained at Yarl’s Wood after being separated from their children had gone on a hunger strike in protest. The controversy was only recently with the protestors returning to their rooms without the need for staff intervention.

The UKBA’s stand on children came in reaction to Children’s Commissioner’s assertion that kids held at the immigration detention centre were facing "extremely distressing" arrest and transportation procedures.

Sir Al Aynsley-Green had, in fact, brought to the fore concerns over significant areas of healthcare for the 1,000 children held in the Yarl’s Wood centre every year.

These include failure to assess even at an elementary level the general psychological wellbeing of a child on arrival and inability to recognise psychological harm when faced with dramatic changes in a child’s behaviour.

Quoting the example of a three-year-old child with a fractured arm, Aynsley-Green had asserted the poor care and improper delays was indicative of inability to provide a standard of NHS care that any British citizen could expect.

In reaction, Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said: We believe that children should not be separated from their parents.

He added: ‘Treating children with care and compassion is an absolute priority for the UK Border Agency, and we take the detention of families very seriously…..

‘We only detain families as a last resort. We always release families where advised it is in their best interests by independent social workers and specialist medical professionals.

‘We only detain families when the independent courts conclude they have no right to remain in the UK. We encourage families to return voluntarily, avoiding the need for detention. If they refuse to return, we have no choice but to enforce their removal.

‘The changes we have made at Yarl’s Wood have been praised by many, including Sir Al, who praised the improvements made over the past few years when giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in September last year.’

Soon after the surfacing of reports on children being forcibly separated from their parents and delays in treating a child suffering from a fracture at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre, the pressure is also mounting on the government to end child detention.

Expressing alarm at the reports, Director of Jewish Council for Racial Equality Dr Edie Friedman Director and several others have joined “thousands of fellow citizens calling upon Gordon Brown to end child detention”.

They have asserted that the findings reflect disregard for children’s welfare. There is no need to detain families with children.

Claiming the administrative detention of children was simply too harmful to be accepted in a civilised society, they have questioned how many more dreadful medical reports on psychological damage to children in detention must we read before the inhumane practice comes to an end


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