Calls to end child detention

Campaigners have called on the Government to live up to its pledge to end child detention after inspectors found children's needs were being overlooked at specialist immigration accommodation.

Cedars, near Gatwick airport, provides pre-departure accommodation for families subject to immigration control who are being removed from the UK, with 42 families being held there during 2013 for an average of just over three days.
The Coalition Agreement committed the Government to ending immigration detention of children, and families with children are no longer detained in Immigration Removal Centres before removal.
But an inspection of Cedars by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) found "the needs of children were not central enough to the arrest process".
In one case, HMIP found extreme force was used for several minutes to batter down a family's door early in the morning.
In addition, inspectors found a number of families were still detained on more than one occasion, which was a "disruptive upheaval for children, both emotionally and practically".
Asylum charity Refugee Council said the HMIP report shone a spotlight on the "extremely disturbing and ongoing practice of detaining innocent children for administrative convenience".
Refugee Council chief executive Maurice Wren said: " The instances described in this report of immigration officers using unnecessary force to detain people and the particular case of officials battering a family's door down without knocking first is simply unacceptable.
"Children within the asylum system are already extremely vulnerable and imprisoning them causes lasting psychological and emotional damage.
"It's disgraceful that children are consistently put at further risk by the authorities who are supposed to be protecting them.
"Children must be treated as children first, regardless of their immigration status.
"It's essential that the Government finally lives up to its pledge to end child detention once and for all."
Elsewhere, inspectors praised the "high-quality" residential units and grounds, while the level of individual care and attention for families on their reception into the centre remained "exceptional".
Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said: " The distress experienced by parents and children who are subject to enforced removals is palpable for anyone who spends time in their company in Cedars.
"More should be done to address the jarring experiences some families have before arrival at Cedars, and to reduce the stress of removal.
"However, Cedars itself remains an example of best practice in caring for families who are to be removed."
A Home Office spokesman said: "We are pleased that this report recognises the continued high performance of the Cedars pre-departure accommodation facility.
"We have dramatically reformed the removals process to ensure that the welfare of the child is at the heart of every family return. The Independent Family Returns Panel are consulted prior to every ensured return and families are only ever removed separately where it is in the best interests of all involved.
"We will carefully consider this report's recommendations and will respond fully in due course."
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