The detention of children in immigration centres will end under the coalition government, prime minister David Cameron confirmed today.
The Liberal Democrats had been pushing for an end to child detention before the election, while the Conservatives had not specified their position.
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children’s Society, and Celia Clarke, director of the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees, described the announcement as a “tremendous reassurance”.
They said in a joint statement: “[We] are delighted that the new government has pledged its commitment to ending child detention in immigration centres. We feel a tremendous reassurance that the new government is taking this so seriously.
“We believe that locking up children, who have committed no crime, for months at a time is unacceptable in Britain in the 21st century. This commitment is a huge step in the right direction and we now await the details of how the new administration intends to implement the policy. We urge them to end this abhorrent practice as soon as possible.”
UK Border Agency statistics show 235 children entered detention in the first quarter of 2009, with a further 235 in the second quarter. An average 71% of children held throughout the first half of the year were asylum detainees.
Meanwhile, Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of Action for Children, urged the government to cut down on prescriptive initiatives. “In these changing times where politicians are pledging to rise above party politics in the best interests of the nation, we are urging the new government to put the needs of the most vulnerable and neglected children first,” she said.
“Over the past 21 years there have been over 400 different major announcements with each initiative lasting, on average, a little over two years. This cannot continue. This new government must implement long-term policies, seeking cross-party consensus to benefit the most vulnerable across the UK.”
On his first full day in office, Cameron also confirmed the coalition had agreed that reductions can be made to the Child Trust Fund.