Immigration detention centre not fit for children, say inspectors

Holding children at Harmondsworth detention centre should be
avoided wherever possible and in any case no child should stay
there for more than a week, according to the government’s
prisons inspectorate.

In its first report on the centre, the inspectors found 25
children detained there with their families. In her introduction,
chief inspector of prisons Ann Owers said, “Staff had a
child-centred approach and good child protection procedures were in
place.  However, we considered that staffing levels on the units
were too low to ensure security and provide practical help to
children and their families; and creche staff and managers needed
further training.

“In spite of some good teaching, we did not believe that
the educational, recreational or developmental needs of children
could be met for anything except a very short period.”

In general the inspectors found that Harmondsworth provided
neither a safe nor a respectful environment.  “Many of the
systematic problems that detainees experienced at Harmondsworth
have already been covered in the Inspectorate’s six previous
removal centre reports, and need to be addressed

They include: the inability of the Immigration Service to
progress cases efficiently, or to communicate effectively with
detainees; the absence of sufficient competent legal advice and
representation; the need for independent welfare advice to assist
detainees to deal with practical problems during detention and on
removal; and the need for more activities for detainees, including
the ability to work.

An inspection of Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre. HM
Inspectorate of Prisons.

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