Damian Green announced to minimise children detention
9th September 2010:The announcement by Immigration Minister Damian Green, to minimise detention of children, than to end it completely has fetched criticism from various quarters. The government has been accused of dumping its promise to end the detention of children in immigration centers, a descend that would be severe embarrassment to Liberal Democrat ministers.
Two months after Nick Clegg told MPs, the coalition would deliver on its pledge to end the controversial practice, Damian Green, the immigration minister, revealed that the government only intended to "minimise" the number of child detainees.
In a statement released by the Home Office Green stated that 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.
Meanwhile the Children’s Society and refugee welfare groups urged Green to stick to the promise. Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said that they would be immensely disappointed if the government went back on its pledge to end child detention for good.
Covey added that ‘minimising’ the use of detention for children was unacceptable and would still involve locking up innocent and vulnerable children. There was no practical reason why detention of children should not be stopped today.
The Guardian had reported last month that families with children facing removal were being given an ultimatum to leave the country voluntarily or face deportation "within weeks" under a pilot scheme, dashing expectations of more liberal alternatives to child detention.