Children detained in an immigration removal centre are yet to
have their welfare needs assessed – a year after the government
announced the policy.
The admission by the Home Office that it has failed to assess a
single child was attacked as showing indifference to children’s
needs by the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees.
When the policy was introduced in December 2003 the Home Office
promised that the welfare and educational needs of any child
detained at Dungavel in Scotland for 21 days would be assessed to
ensure their needs were met.
The plan was to roll out the assessments to other centres with
children, Oakington in Cambridgeshire and Tinsley House at
In November 2004, a report by the chief inspector of prisons,
Anne Owers, found that procedures for safeguarding children at
Oakington last summer were inadequate.
Sarah Cutler, policy and research officer at Bail for
Immigration Detainees, said: “With a report that damning you would
expect the government to move quickly on carrying out
She added that the lack of assessments showed a “blatant
disregard” of detained children’s needs. Without the information
from these welfare assessments, the whole process of requiring
ministerial authorisation to detain children for more than 28 days
was flawed, she added.
But the Home Office insisted that, despite the lack of
assessments, any welfare concerns were drawn to
the minister’s attention. A spokesperson said the government was
working to “establish protocols”
with South Lanarkshire social services for the assessments at
Meanwhile, the chair of the Refugee Children’s Consortium
claimed the Home Office was developing a pilot scheme to return
home unaccompanied minors from Albania whose asylum claims had
Nancy Kelley said the government was also looking at running a
pilot to trace family members of unaccompanied minors from
Bangladesh whose claims had failed.
Although the consortium did not oppose the principle of
returning unaccompanied minors, Kelley said it would not support
such a policy under the current system of assessing claims, which
is “particularly poor in regards to unaccompanied children”.
Currently, the government grants leave to remain to
unaccompanied minors whose claims fail until they are 18 and then