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End now detention of child asylum-seekers: immigration lawyers

Call upon ministers to take action in response to the UKBA Review

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13th July 2010: As the UK Border Agency is undertaking a Review in response to the Government’s commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes, immigration lawyers have called for the immediate end to the practice.

The lawyers have made it clear that they want an end to the detention of child asylum-seekers, rather than wait for substitute approaches to be set up.

In fact, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) has asked the ministers to ensure the fulfillment of commitment they made in the Queen’s Speech, and to put to an end with immediate effect the detention of children.

They called upon the ministers for taking immediate action in a response to the UK Border Agency’s Review into Ending the Detention of Children for Immigration Purposes.

In response to the Government’s commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes, the UK Border Agency is undertaking a Review and will be engaging with a range of experts and organisations.

The Terms of Reference for this Review were agreed by the Minister of State for
Immigration, Damian Green, and the Review is accountable to him.

The Review runs for six weeks starting on 1 June 2010 and is being led by David Wood, Strategic Director, Criminality and Detention Group, UK Border Agency. The findings from the Review will be made public.

The Review’s aim is to consider how the detention of children for immigration purposes will be ended. It will make recommendations based on its findings.

The Review is also considering: The UK Border Agency’s current approach to dealing with asylum applications from families, including the contact arrangements with those families and the families’ access to legal representation; the current circumstances in which children are detained; and all relevant baseline data and statistics.

It is further considering the UK Border Agency’s initiatives on implementing alternatives to the detention of children, including the current Glasgow pilot; and models of good practise from other jurisdictions and relevant current research.

The review will further consider how the current voluntary return process may be improved to increase the take-up from families who have no legal right to remain in the UK; and how a new family removals model can be established which protects the welfare of children and ensures the return of those who have no right to be in the UK, outlining the key process changes, rule or legislative changes that would be required to implement the new model.

The Review is taking account of existing international, EU and Human rights obligations;  the UK Border Agency’s statutory duty to make arrangements to take account of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children as it carries out its functions (section 55, BCI Act); equality obligations; current financial constraints; the requirement for robust statistical data; the need for a risk assessed approach in dealing with individual families; and the need for an implementation timetable.

The ILPA, meanwhile, blamed the UKBA for disregarding obligations to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The group said its understanding from the plain words of the government’s coalition agreement was that this government had firmly decided that the detention of children must end. Why then was the UKBA continuing to detain children? they questioned.

The group claimed UKBA’s consultation terms of reference make "no express reference to any disaster that would befall the UK if the detention of children were to end now.

The arguments that ending child detention may increase child trafficking was also refuted, and it was asserted the only way to deter traffickers was to identify and prosecute them.

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