UKBA condemned for separating 200 children from their parents

Government facing renewed calls to end the practice of separating children from their parents for immigration purposes

Children separated from their parents by the UK Border Agency are often placed in unstable care arrangements with “appalling consequences”, according to research published today.

In a report – ‘Fractured Childhoods : the separation of families by immigration detention’ – human rights charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), criticised the UKBA for separating 200 children from 111 parents held in immigration detention.

‘Unstable care arrangements’

The children – 85 of whom were in local authority care while their parent was detained for 270 days on average (115 stayed with their other parent) – were found to have become extremely isolated while separated. They suffered a range of related problems, including weight loss, nightmares and insomnia.

Some of the children were also found to have been moved between unstable local authority care arrangements where they were neglected by their carers, and placed at risk of serious harm.

In 92 of the cases, the parent was eventually released, but in 15 cases parents were deported or removed from the UK without their children. Some, but not all, of the 15 parents had committed criminal offences.

The report found the UK Border Agency (UKBA) failed to take even basic steps to protect children in some cases. In two cases, the UKBA forcibly deported single parents, leaving their children in care. In one of these cases, the agency did not find out whether the children were in a safe care arrangement before deporting their father.

‘Callous indifference shown by UKBA’

Sarah Campbell, research and policy manager at BID, said the report revealed the “hidden scandal” of children being split from their parents by the UKBA, which the charity wants the government to end immediately. 

“Children we spoke to described their despair and misery at not knowing if or when they would see their parent again. The Border Agency displayed a callous indifference in continuing to detain parents, in some cases despite having clear evidence that children were in wholly unsuitable care arrangements. The government must immediately end the inhumane practice of separating children from their parents for immigration purposes.”

The UKBA has been contacted for a response.

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