The detention of children in the immigration system should end because of the trauma it causes them, a Children’s Society manager told MPs yesterday.
Ali Soyei, programme manager of the charity’s Bedford project working directly with families held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, was giving evidence to a home affairs select committee hearing on the detention of children.
The meeting followed recent outcry over the Home Office’s release of comprehensive figures on children held in immigration detention by the UK Border Agency.
According to the statistics 235 children entered detention in the first quarter of 2009, with a further 235 entering in the second quarter. An average of 71% of children held throughout the first half of the year were asylum detainees.
In “snapshot” data taken at the end of June 2009, 29% of children in detention had been there for more than 29 days.
Trauma of detention
Soyei spoke to the committee of the trauma detention can cause for children. He said many cases had been reported of severe alterations of behaviour, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other psychological issues.
Concern was raised at the meeting over the Home Office statistic that 56% of the children detained during the reported period were released back into the community. The Children’s Society has said meant their detention had “served no purpose”.
David Wood, director of the criminality and detention group, UKBA, defended decisions to detain families, saying their release back into the community did not necessarily indicate an all-clear on their immigration status. In many cases, he said, it merely meant another stage of the appeal process.
Wood added that no families were detained against their will because prior to the detention stage, they had been asked to leave the UK voluntarily. In these cases UKBA would cover the cost of their transport.