Oakington fails to adequately safeguard children

The procedures for safeguarding children at Oakington Immigration
Reception Centre were not “sufficiently robust” at the
time of inspection, according to the chief inspector of prisons,
writes Amy Taylor.

In an inspection report of the centre in Cambridgeshire, Anne
Owers also warns that insufficient attention was being given to
managing vulnerable detainees who were at an increased risk of
suicide and self-harm.

Oakington held 41 children at the time of the inspection in June
this year and, of this group, 15 had been held for between one and
four weeks. Owers said that there was no evidence that agreed
procedures for authorising the detention of children had been
followed, and on-site staff seemed unaware of the need for

There was no independent social services assessment of children
staying longer than a few days taking place, though files showed
that some children were suffering distress. Social services were
also found to be reluctant to assist in determining the age of
people whose status as children was disputed.

Owers stated that not all staff in the family unit had undergone
enhanced criminal records checks although this problem was dealt
with during the inspection.

“The government’s wide powers of immigration
detention are endangering children and urgently need to be balanced
by robust systems that place the child’s needs at the heart
of decisions about them,” said Sarah Cutler, policy officer
at detention charity Bail for Immigration Detainees.

Home Office minister Des Browne said that the government
“believe that the mechanisms for detaining children and
reviewing their detention at Oakington are dealt with sensitively
and with priority”.

Report from: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/justice/prisons/inspprisons

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