Despite having committed to ending the immigration detention of children in May last year, the Government opened a new family detention facility in Crawley, Sussex in September 2011. This centre is described by the Government as ‘Pre-departure Accommodation’. However, the centre is secure and has areas where families and individuals can be held in isolation. Families will be detained there under Immigration Act powers. It will be run as an offshoot of the nearby Tinsley House detention centre and inspected by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Some concessions have been made in the Government’s policies on child detention in the last year, and a time limit of one week has been set on child detention (although this has not as yet been circumscribed in legislation). We are extremely disappointed that the Government has not fulfilled its commitment to end child detention, and have the following concerns about the new ‘family returns process’.
We are concerned that Tinsley House will continue to be used to hold families who are detained on arrival in the UK. If they are to be detained, we cannot see any reason why these families should not be housed in the new family detention facility in Crawley, which the UK Border Agency itself states is a more suitable environment for children. Families will also be held in Tinsley House if it is deemed that they pose ‘public protection risks’, yet it remains unclear how these risks will be assessed.
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