Government under fire again on detention policy

Chris Huhne urges Johnson to consider the plight of children

21st December 2009: Even as the UK Border Agency claimed the detainees in the removal centers had access to a range of medical, educational and welfare facilities, the pressure is mounting on the government for putting to an end the controversial policy on detaining children.

Soon after a report suggested the conditions for women and children at an immigration removal centre were "wholly unacceptable", Home Secretary Alan Johnson has been urged to stop the unkind and needless practice of keeping children in immigration detention centres.

In a communiqué to Johnson, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne urging the Home Secretary to consider the plight of children, who will spend Christmas locked up in the centres.

The letter comes soon after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg sought the scrapping of the controversial asylum policy on detaining children in removal homes.
Launching an attack on the policy, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s failure to get it scrapped, Clegg too had earlier asserted it would see hundreds of innocent children spend Christmas behind bars. How could the Government justify “state sponsored cruelty”? Clegg had questioned.

Huhne, in his letter, said he was requesting Johnson to formally end the policy of detaining children in the immigration detention centres. Describing the policy as unnecessary, he said and it cold cause untold and irrevocable mental and emotional damage to the children involved.

Huhne said nearly 500 children were held in immigration centres at any one time because their parents were failed asylum seekers or illegal immigrants.
He claimed it was profoundly unBritish to lock up innocent children at any time, but particularly poignant at Christmas.

Available information suggests almost 1,000 have been detained for a month or more in recent years.

Meanwhile, David Wood, Strategic Director of Criminality and Detention Group, UK Border Agency said: ‘Treating women and children with care and compassion is a priority for the UK Border Agency.

‘Removal centres are a necessary part of enforcing immigration control. It is vital that they are well-run, safe and secure. Detainees are cared for with respect, with access to a range of medical, educational and welfare facilities.’

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