Inspector again criticises lengthy detention of children

Detention of the children of asylum seekers has again been
criticised by the chief inspector of prisons, writes
Clare Jerrom

Anne Owers said it should be “an exceptional measure, and should
not in any event exceed a very short period – no more than a
matter of days”. Her comments were made in an inspection report of
Dungavel immigration removal centre in Scotland – which is
the only removal centre that routinely holds families for lengthy

She said in April that children should be detained for no longer
than seven days. Centres holding children need “robust child
protection safeguards and effective liaison with local area child
protection committees”, she said after publishing inspection
reports on four immigration removal centres and one reception

In the Dungavel report she said the welfare and development of
children is likely to be compromised by detention, however humane
the provision, and this will increase the longer the detention is

Owers urged that there should be an independent assessment of
the welfare, developmental and educational needs of each detained
child, guided by the principles set out in international and UK
domestic law in relation to children.

The call comes just a week after the Ay family of Kurdish asylum
seekers – including four children –  were deported to Germany
after 13 months in detention at Dungavel.

The inspection also found “serious shortfalls” in
educational provision in Dungavel, and as a result the Scottish
education inspectorate carried out a follow-up visit in July.

The second visit found that a number of specific concerns raised
in the inspection had been addressed, however, despite the
improvements it found that the educational facilities were
acceptable only for a short period of two weeks. The educational
needs of children detained for lengthier periods could not be

Only 15 per cent of the detainees surveyed at Dungavel felt safe
and the three main reasons for distress were the prison-like
environment they were living in for an indefinite period, the
stress of the long journey to the centre and the weakness in
communication and case management by the immigration service
combined with the difficulty accessing legal representation.

The report recommends:-

  • There should be a proper and humane management of the movement
    of detainees, particularly those with children, who should not be
    subject to unnecessary and lengthy journeys
  • The immigration department and the Scottish Legal Aid Board
    should consult with professional bodies to ensure that access to
    legal advice and representation is provided
  • Detainees should be told in their language their rights to
    bail, appeals and legal aid within 24 hours of arrival
  • The immigration service should ensure casework of those
    detained is expedited and all detainees are kept informed about the
    reasons for detention and progress on their cases
  • The anti-bullying strategy should be reviewed
  • The centre should improve its educational provision

Community Care’s campaign A Right to Refuge demands an end
to the unjustified detention of the children of asylum seekers, and
calls for them to be treated according to international human
rights legislation and the Children Act 1989.

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