Campaigners, church leaders, welcome plan to end child detention

Church leaders and human rights campaigners have welcomed the Government's announcement aimed at ending the detention of children and their families in the immigration system.

Bishop Patrick Lynch, Chairman of the Office for Migration Policy of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said:  "I welcome the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's announcement on Ending the Detention of Children for Immigration Purposes.  I am encouraged by the Coalition Government's  commitment to end this shameful practice.

"I  also welcome the announcement that the Family Unit in Yarls Wood will be closed with immediate effect, fulfilling the Government's promise that there will be no children in detention this Christmas as well as the commitment to the closure of Tinsley House immigration removal centre by 11 May 2011.

"The creation of the Independent Family Returns Panel of experts is a positive development; however, the composition of that panel remains a deep concern.

"The Government's plan to overhaul the Asylum system with improvements in quality decision making and early access to legal advice is to be welcomed."

However, Bishop Lynch added:  "I remain deeply concerned about any policies that will force the return of families to countries (such as Iraq and Zimbabwe) where the Church, Voluntary agencies and Human Rights organisations report a resurgence in religious or politically motivated violence."

End Child Detention Now, the citizens' campaign working to end the scandal of child detention by the UK immigration authorities, continues to call for an immediate end to child detention and wants confirmation that the "ensured return" procedure does not involve the detention of children under another name.*

Esmé Madill, coordinator of End Child Detention Now said: "The evidence of harm caused by detention is overwhelming and there can be no justification for continuing to lock up children. An immigration system which allows the children of asylum seekers to be detained in conditions which would never be accepted for any other children and young people makes a mockery of the principle that every child matters. Children seeking sanctuary in the UK are among the most vulnerable in our communities and yet they are afforded less protection than any other group of children and young people. If the mark of a civilised nation is how it treats the most vulnerable we can hardly claim to be civilised."

Commenting on these new developments, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, who, as England’s first Children’s Commissioner, published a series of shaming reports on the plight of asylum seeking children, said: “I welcome the statement from the Deputy Prime Minister that detention will end. I am pleased that no child is being held in detention now, that none will be held over Christmas, and that the Family Wing at Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Centre is to close forthwith. The evidence of harm to children from  detention is incontrovertible, and so what happens between now and May and the proposed process of final return still demand the closest of public scrutiny with ongoing rigorous monitoring of what is being done to children and families."

"My work whilst Children's Commissioner exposed poor practice and a failure to promote the best interests of children by the UKBA. Much still remains to be done to document what happens to children when they present at border points; in residential care when unaccompanied; the process of age determination and their outcomes if returned to their countries of origin. Children seeking refuge are children first and foremost and deserve the humanity and dignity that we would expect for children in our own families. Today's statement is a helpful and courageous step forward."

For more information  on the End Child Detention Now campaign, see:

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