Release of detained children postponed until March
12 November 2010: A group of Labour, Liberal Democrat and independent peers today condemned the government’s delay in ending the detention of children at immigration centers.
The government has postponed the release of Chandigarh until March. In a letter to the Guardian, supported by the Children’s Society, 10 peers and two bishops called for an immediate end to the practice.
More than 50 children have been detained since the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, pledged six months ago that the family wing at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire would close.
It is the main immigration removal centre holding families and children. Earlier this week the Home Office business plan revealed that the detention of children at Yarl’s Wood, in Bedfordshire, would not end until March at the earliest.
The peer’s letters stated that the children were still being held in detention in spite of the clear evidence that this was harmful. The peers have called upon the government now to fulfill the promise that it made to end the detention of children without further delay.
The authorities were to develop a more humane system for the treatment of families and children who were subjected to immigration control.
Among the signatories are former Labour MP Lord Dubs, who was director of the Refugee Council, former Liberal Democrat Lord Dholakia and the Bishops of Lincoln and Leicester.
Director for children and young people at the Children’s Society, Penny Nicholls welcomed the support of peers on this matter.The jubilation of the announcement six months ago had been replaced by deep concern that children were still being detained.
The society has further urged the government to honour their commitment and to put child welfare and safeguarding at the heart of any new practice. Immigration Minister Damian Green insisted that the government intended to deliver on its promise.
He said significant progress had been made in working towards the commitment to end child detention for immigration purposes. Green added that they were currently piloting some proposed changes to their approach developed with partners. The immigration minister said that they had already announced that the family unit at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre would close. The government had already stopped using Dungavel in Scotland as a detention centre for children in May.