UK fails to end child detention horror

British border officials have kept hundreds of immigrant children, including many unaccompanied by an adult, in custody over the recent months despite the government's promise to end detention of children.
Based on figures obtained from the UK Border Agency under Freedom of Information regulations, border officers detained 697 children between May and August 2011 at the Port of Dover and at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, in what activists described as a horrific act.

The leading charity, Children's Society, which obtained the information, said one third of the detained children were not accompanied by an adult, adding the figures mean thousands of under-18 children have been in detention across the UK.

"We are horrified at the excessive numbers of children being held in the south-east and very disappointed that the government has not kept these numbers to a minimum," the charity's chief executive Bob Reitemeier said.

"It is of great concern that this appears to be happening without sufficient monitoring centrally by the Home Office, including why they are being held, their age and critically the length of time that they were held," he added.

Reitemeier also said that the revelation “raises serious questions” about the government's “commitment” to its pledge to put an end to “the immigration detention of children.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has described imprisoning children “innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever” a moral scandal.

The government launched a new policy back in December 2010 to abolish child detention except as part of a family and pledged that would be "a few dozen families each year, usually for less than 24 hours and only where logistics or safety makes pre-departure accommodation unworkable."

However, as Enver Solomon, policy director at the Children's Society, said locking up of children continues “in higher numbers” than expected calling for investigations into the issue.

Meanwhile, Kamena Dorling, policy and programmes manager at Coram Children's Legal Centre slammed the government's “rebranding” of child detention to silence critics.

"This information is very concerning because of the high numbers of children and because we don't know how long they are being held," she said.

"There is an awful lot of research and evidence about the harm and trauma caused to children who are detained, not because they have done anything wrong, but purely for immigration reasons," she added.(


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