Another centre to come up next week at west Sussex
24th August 2011: Another detention centre is expected to open for the failed asylum seekers and their children next week.
The altered special needs school in Pease Pottage, West Sussex, will house families for up to a week, before they are compulsorily removed from the UK.
The families at detention centre would be supported by children’s charity Barnardo’s. The charity has recruited 29 staff to support up to nine families. Each of the families will have a key worker provided by the charity, but will be able to go to Barnardo’s other staff with problems.
Families sent to the centre will be lodged in individual apartments and have right o entry to outdoor and indoor play areas.
They will be enclosed by a 2.3 metre fence and the site will be subject to 24-hour security. An independent panel, including children’s services experts, a medical adviser and a border agency official, would supervise the running of the centre.
According to many asylum and children’s campaigners, the centre – run by private security company G4S – goes against the government’s oath.
The government had vowed last year to end the detention of children of failed asylum seekers. Much rage has been directed at the children’s charity Barnardo’s, which will offer family support services including counselling and local outings.
The new facility follows the shutting down of the family unit of the controversial Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, in Bedfordshire.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) maintains that the Pease Pottage "family-friendly" accommodation will only be used as a last alternative where families fail to obey to leave the UK.
The spokeswoman for Medical Justice, a detainee rights group, Emma Ginn accused Barnardo’s of helping UKBA to re-brand custody.
She said: "It was still within sight that detention of children could properly have ended”.
Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie while supporting its involvement termed it as an unfortunate need, and part of the charity’s core mission to support the most vulnerable children.
Carrie added ““It’s sad, but there needs to be enforced departure.” She asserted it was more humane, than the immediate same-day departure, and separating of families prior to leaving the country.
Barnardo’s has laid down a series of "red lines". The charity threatened to pull out, if more than 10 percent of the families removed from the UK after a year went through the centre. The charity asserted, if families spent more than the allocated week in the centre on more than two occasions, then also they would withdraw their services.
The children’s commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson asserted Barnardo’s involvement was a positive step.
Atkinson added that the government could have chosen to give all elements of running the centre to private contractors, but they chose to give it to a children’s charity.
A UKBA spokesperson said the Pease Pottage site would be safe but will respect privacy. Families would also have free movement around the grounds and will be able to leave the site subject to a risk assessment and under supervision.