Yarl’s Wood ‘no place for a child’, says Aynsley-Green

Children in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre are not adequately assessed for their psychological well-being and some face unacceptable delays in receiving medical treatment, according to Sir Al Aynsley-Green, England’s children’s commissioner (pictured).

Aynsley-Green, in a progress report, said although there had been improvements at Yarl’s Wood, the Bedfordshire centre remained “no place for a child”.

He highlighted concerns over the trauma children experience when being arrested, transported and separated from their parents as well as the centre’s healthcare policy and practice.

Some children were being detained far longer than the average 14 days, and many were not being adequately prepared for their return to their home countries.

“There was evidence from our visit and audit of records that children in detention have emotional and psychological needs that are not always being met,” the report stated. It also found that the centre’s policy for assessing children’s well-being was inadequate.

The findings follow concerns highlighted, and recommendations made, in Aynsley-Green’s 2008 report into the removal centre.

Aynsley-Green welcomed improvements since his last report, including an end to transporting children to the centre in caged vans, the centre’s “less institutional feel” and fewer prison-style uniforms.

However, there were “unacceptable delays” when providing children with medical treatment. In one case, a child with a fracture was not taken to A&E until nearly 20 hours after her mother had told nurses about the injury.

Aynsley-Green said that, although it was the government’s role to decide whether a child should be removed from the UK, the process by which children are removed must be “humane.”

“Yarl’s Wood is no place for a child,” he said. “Ultimately, I would like to see a far faster process and an end to the detention of children in the asylum system. There needs to be more education about the alternatives to detention.”

Lisa Nandy, policy adviser at the Children’s Society, said the report confirmed her organisation’s experience of working with children in detention. “Conditions have certainly improved, but the fact remains that detaining children is unnecessary, expensive and highly damaging.”

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