Refugee Council: Child detention “disappointing”

Refugee Council has described as “very disappointing” the government’s continued detention of children for immigration purposes.

The Refugee Council’s new report, “Not a Minor Offence”, details the reasons children are often wrongly treated as adults and the impact being detained has on the young people the charity works with.

“It is very disappointing that children are still being detained, despite the government’s pledge two years ago that they would stop this abhorrent practice,” Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said. “While we welcome the improved conditions for children who are detained with their families, we still strongly believe children who have sought safety here should not be detained at all.”

Ms. Covey said the statistics do not include the significant number of children who are wrongly detained as adults.

“The mental and physical health of children who are wrongly treated as adults and locked up can be severely damaged. The government must urgently put measures in place to ensure children are not held in detention just for the UKBA’s administrative convenience,” Ms. Covey said.

The Home Office statistics for Jan-Mar 2012 show that in the first three months of 2012: some 53 children were detained, and seven are currently being held.

There were 4,518 asylum applications, 1% less than this time last year. Out of 4,496 initial decisions in asylum applications, 65% were refusals.

The statistics also show that in 2011, there were 1,277 applications from unaccompanied children, and an additional 354 young asylum applicants had their ages disputed.

Refugee Council said that the UKBA does not publish figures for those who are treated as adults based on their appearance, and who are not sent for an age assessment – they are therefore detained as adults and included in adult detention figures.

The Refugee Council works with children who have been wrongly detained as adults, to release them from detention centres. Last year, 22 were released from detention, after being found to be children.

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