Children from under five to over 17 age held
3rd May 2011: Even though the UK Border Agency had assured of ending the exercise of detaining children, the latest figures suggest at least six children were kept in custody in the Agency detention centers. The detentions were made for immigration reasons in March. Despite the coalition pledge the UKBA was carrying out the practice.
As per the figures released by the watchdog a fortnight back, in 2010 itself, more than 15,000 people, including children, were detained by immigration staff at the airport. The latest detention by UKBA is said to be of four children including one aged fewer than five at Tinsley House removal centre.
The information indicates one child aged over 17, was held at Brook House removal centre, and another, aged between 12 and 16, was detained at Colnbrook short-term holding facility. While the government had assured to end child detention for immigration reasons, this did not include short-term holding centers.
The government is constructing a set of nine apartments for families near Gatwick where children can still be held for up to 72 hours. The planned centre will have family welfare services supplied by Barnardo’s, but will be surrounded by a 2.3m high fence.
The manager of the Children’s Legal Centre’s migrant children’s project, Kamena Dorling, said that it was given that they wanted to see the figure reduced to zero.
But even when no children were held in long-term facilities, they were still concerned about the use of short-term facilities and this new centre. The manager added that these figures do marked a progression though, but more could be done.
Earlier this month, an HM Inspectorate of Prisons report, a Review of Short-term Holding Facility Inspections 2004–2010, into short-term holding facilities at ports and airports said there was a lack of consciousness among staff of their responsibilities concerning children.
Only last month the airport independent monitoring board (IMB) had claimed children were being held overnight in "degrading" conditions at Heathrow Airport. The watchdog had even warned the facilities available at the airport were entirely inappropriate.
In its report, the watchdog had claimed that the UK Border Agency had again failed in its duty to treat everyone in its care in Heathrow holding rooms with decency.
Even as the UKBA said the welfare of children within immigration system was an absolute priority, the report said the airport’s detention rooms had poor ventilation, no natural light and inadequate washing facilities.