HM Inspector of Prisons exposes deputy prime minister’s fabrication to have ended detention of children: During a 25 minute fanfare at last month’s Liberal Democrat party conference, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg claimed again that the government has fulfilled its promise to end the immigration detention of children. It has not. It has simply re-branded the detention of children, opening a new detention facility for children at Pease Pottage, run by G4S and Barnardo’s. Yesterday, HM Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) published its first report on this new detention facility for children and families (“Cedars”).
Number of detained children has started to ramp up
The number of children detained has reduced from 1,000 children in 2009, to 400 in 2010, to 99 in 2011, but increased to 113 in the first six months of 2012.
Government’s spin has emasculated the campaign to end the detention of children
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg branded the immigration detention of children as “state sponsored cruelty” and promised to end it. He keeps claiming that the detention of children has ended, but this is not correct.
The government has trumpeted some improvements they have made in the way family cases are dealt with, and convinced most people there isn’t a problem any more.
In theory, there are three main improvements. Firstly, families with children are now are given some notice of UKBA’s intention to deport them, so they have some opportunity to make fresh representations if appropriate, or consider voluntary return. However, possibly due to effects of cuts in legal aid , 49% of families that got detained in the new detention facility did not have legal representation.
Secondly, some family cases are reviewed by the Independent Family Removals Panel, but their information gathering process is flawed, and in any case, the panel’s reccommednations are not binding on UKBA. HMIP identified that “the views of the panel sometimes did not arrive at the centre until after removal”, that “some elements of removal plans had not been followed and the family returns panel had not been made aware of such discrepancies” and that “one escort team leader we spoke to was unaware of the plan”. Also, the panel relies on information supplied by UKBA and may only get to see summaries on families produced by UKBA, which can be inaccurate. For example, HMIP found paperwork on a family with conclusions that did not appear to be supported – “a family welfare form stated that the relevant social work department did not think the proposal would have a negative impact on the children; in fact, no judgment, positive or negative, had been made.”
Neither the family or their legal representative, if they have one, get visibility of what information the panel has been given, so they have no opportunity to challenge any inaccuracies or ommissions. If a removal attempt fails, the family’s case is not necessarily remitted back to the Family Removals Panel for advice on any subsequent removal attempt. The 7-day limit on detention may mean UKBA resort to use increasingly non-standard methods to remove the family (e.g hiring a private plane). Each failed removal may increase the family’s vulnerability.
The Panel sanctions plans to carry out dawn-raids, use of force, and split families up between continents.
Thirdly, children can now only be detained for up to 7 days. But HMIP found that some had been detained twice and one family three times. There is medical evidence that even very short periods of detention can cause significant harm. In September 2010 Medical Justice published the “‘State Sponsored Cruelty’: Children in immigration detention” report based on 141 children in detention who we assisted. It revealed the extent to which detaining children causes harm. Children have attempted to end their own lives, and have been left seriously physically and psychologically damaged. Significant harm was shown to stem from violent dawn-raids which continue to happen.
Improvements are emphasised by UKBA and it’s little wonder that unpalatable facts, like the fact that detained children now have less rights than they did before, are ignored by the mainstream.
Surprisingly, Barnardo’s agreed to run the new detention facility, together with G4S. Many feel this has assisted the re-branding as most people assume Barnardo’s must be a good thing for all children. Barnardo’s say that their role will enable them to influence things for the better. But for many children, parts of the detention regime that Barnardo’s have no direct involvement with remain unchanged, starting with a door being broken down in a dawn raid on their home, some witnessing their parents being handcuffed, floored, injured, and separated from them. Some have been deported to a country that they have never been to, and others have been deported without one of their parents.
The government’s spin is insidious, and believable, unless you happened to have heard from detained families or read the HM Inspector of Prisons report. There was a Guardian article about the Ay family children getting compensation for damage by detention in the UK 8 years ago. As their ‘right of reply’ statement UKBA said they have ended the detention of children, which the reader may well believe. UKBA know that’s not true. The Guardian journalist knows it’s not true, but the Guardian is obliged to publish UKBA’s statement.
On 3rd April 2012 there was a letter in the Guardian signed by 15 Liberal Democrat MPs about a number of achievements they wanted to highlight, including that they “ended child detention for immigration purposes”. When challenged, one of the signatories admitted that he knew full well that child detention had not ended. Meanwhile, Guardian readers may believe it.
NSPCC : “There can be no excuse for detaining children in immigration facilities” – Whilst the government shut down the facilities to detain children at the infamous Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), they increased facilities to detain children at Tinsley House IRC, and opened the new detention facility (“Cedars”) for detaining children at Pease Pottage in West Sussex, a few miles from Gatwick airport.
Photo left : plenty of SASH (Suicide & Self-Harm) kits in the new Pease Pottage detention facility for families with children.
UKBA emphasised that it “has a completely different look and feel to an Immigration Removal Centre”. It certainly looks nice on the surface, but it is a detention facility – a message repeated by all the detained families we have dealt with. As Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “There can be no excuse for detaining children in immigration facilities. Locking up children like this is wrong and unacceptable. Better quality detention is still detention, however dressed up”.
Barnardo’s have said that the new detention facility is a “regrettable necessity” and a “price worth paying for the closing of Yarl’s Wood [for detaining children]”. The Pease Pottage detention facility is a revenue stream for Barnardo’s who hired 26 people to work there and is being paid for its services by the UKBA.
We made our views known to Barnardo’s ; they ruined the campaign to end the detention of children, which campaigners felt could be achievable as the government had already promised it. And, by facilitating the government’s re-branding of the detention of children, Barnardo’s handed them a pretext to carry on doing it.
According to a March 2011 article in the Times, “The Home Office allowed Barnardo’s to “manage” the announcement [plans for the new detention facility] because the charity was concerned about how the media would react to its involvement.” The detention facility opened on 1st September 2011. There are 44 bed spaces in 9 self-contained accommodation units. One unit is reserved for families at risk of suicide, and one for keeping difficult family members in isolation. Both have observation points. CCTV is everywhere.
The detention facility was named “CEDARS”, which according to UKBA “stands for the principles staff will work to –compassion, empathy, dignity, approachability, respect and support.” These principles have not been evident to Medical Justice as we have never been able to contact Barnardo’s staff concerning any family’s welfare issues. Barnardo’s refuse to provide any contact details for operational staff at the detention facility, saying we must communicate via their policy department and press office in London, which has not been effective. Barnardo’s staff told us that they strive for a “joined up approach” with G4S, who were under investigation regarding a deportee who died at the hands of three G4S guards.
Case-Study : Officers in riot-gear to isolate the father in Pease Pottage detention facility
A pregnant mother says she became distressed and suffered a panic attack. She describes being held down by 3 female officers and suffered bruising as a result. She says that 4 male officers tried to forcibly remove her husband from her. She reported that she experienced abdominal paid and a further panic attack at the detention facility at Pease Pottage. She and her husband were distressed and worried about the pregnancy. She says that a number of officers came in wearing helmets and carrying shields and forcefully dragged the father away. Also, that she was placed in a wheelchair and separated from her child with whom she was only reunited in the van taking on the way to the airport.
Mother says she was assaulted in front of her children – UKBA hired private jet to remove them
One mother said that six of the eight escorts on the flight beat her on the arms and legs, twisted her hand and put hands around her neck. She said she was left spitting blood. Faith and her three children, aged four, six and eight, were taken by surprise when they were arrested by a group of 10 to 12 uniformed officers in a 5.30am raid at their home. She and children were subjected to a number of removal attempts. As the 7-day limit approached, UKBA hired a private jet to remove the family.
Medical Justice hooked her up with a solicitor who obtained a high court injunction stopping the removal. We helped her raise pubic awareness in an article in the Guardian.
“Family Removal Panel” approves deportation of a mother and daughter without the father
Parents from two different African countries were subjected to a dawn-raid. UKBA’s response to a complaint acknowledges that officers broke down their door because it was likely that the father, mother and daughter would be asleep in one bed, and said the purpose was to ”prevent self-harm”. Also, that both parents were restrained and their child carried away by officers in order to “shield the child from any use of force on her parents” and to prevent her from “witnessing the disruption of her parents”. The father was handcuffed, and carried out of his house by 4 officers and pushed to the ground. His underwear came off in the process. He was put in leg restraints. UKBA’s explanation of the injuries he sustained was that he was causing injury to himself.
The father was taken to Colnbrook IRC while and the mother and daughter were taken to the detention facility at Pease Pottage. The mother says that her daughter was not given appropriate anti-malarials and a Medical Justice volunteer wrote to UKBA warning that it was not safe for the daughter to be deported. They were deported to an African country while the father was still held in Colnbook. He says his daughter developed malaria. Medical Justice provided a medical report and helped the father find legal representation. He has since been released. UKBA claim that the Family Removal Panel approved the methods for the dawn-raid and sanctioned the use of force, and the family being split up.
Children have less rights now than had when they were imprisoned at Yarl’s Wood
Children detained at the Pease Pottage detention facility are in a regulatory vacuum with even less rights than they did at Yarl’s Wood. UKBA opened the new detention facility in September 2011, saying that the Detention Centre Rules would not apply but that Short Term Holding Facility Rules would, except they had been “in draft” for a number of years. Now, after a year of children being detained there, no Short Term Holding Facility Rules have been published. This means there are no rules about the use of force on adults or children, putting detainees in isolation, and detainees’ rights to access an independent doctor. Operating Standards for have been put out for consultation and now include a Healthcare but the Non-Compliance section is still missing.
Physical Care and Control (a special form of Control & Restrain for children) can be used on children detained at the Pease Pottage detention facility, with ministerial agreement, to effect their forced removal from the UK, as an absolute last resort. It has been used at least once on a 16-year-old.
Port cases : UKBA detain many hundreds after promising to detain “a few dozen”
UKBA said they would only detain a “few dozen families each year” at ports. But statistics reveal that 697 under 18s were detained between May and August 2011 at ports.
UK Border Agency detain families who it transpires have a valid asylum or human rights claim
There are cases where UKBA have stated that the detainee does not face any risk of persecution in their country and have deported them, yet they were persecuted again (there is no monitoring how often this happens). Families often resist deportation because they feel their asylum or human rights claim has not been properly considered. This remains the case, wherever they are detained. Half of families detained in Yarl’s Wood were later released back into the community, narrowly escaping deportation, and some subsequently granted leave to remain in the UK. Nine families detained at the ease Pottage detention facility have been released. So the “completely different look and feel” of the new Pease Pottage detention facility sadly does not necessarily translate to UKBA’s decision to deport a family being better than when they detained families at Yarl’s Wood.
What Medical Justice is doing about it
Casework with 15 detained children
We have assisted 15 children from 8 families, including 11 parents, detained in the Pease Pottage detention facility. 5 of the children were removed and 10 were released. Almost all referrals we received were made very late – on the day of their removal directions or the day before. Families are usually detained with removal directions set for 3 days later. This meant that we have so far been unable to arrange a medical visit. We have been able to review sets of medical records, conduct telephone assessments, and refer families to appropriate legal representation. Knowledge of Medical Justice usually spreads within a detention centre by word-of-mouth. But due to the time limits in the Pease Pottage detention facility, families get to meet up far less. We are proactively seeking contact with detained families through visitors groups and community support groups.
Casework with parents in detention without their children
We help mothers in Yarl’s Wood and fathers elsewhere who have been detained on their own
Legal challenges – with evidence from our casework
We are monitoring any possibilities for a legal challenge of the basis of detention at the Pease Pottage facility. Meanwhile, we are referring detained families for civil action challenges where appropriate.
Medical Justice, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) and other partners in the Refugee Children’s Consortium have had policy discussions with UKBA, Barnardo’s and the Family Removals Panel..
Medical Justice was quoted news article about the new Pease Pottage detention facility for children ;
Morning Star : “‘Accommodation centre’ rebrand fury” – 10th March 2011
Guardian : “Barnardo’s won’t lessen trauma of child detention” – 10th March 2011
The Times : “Charity will help with ‘pre-departure accommodation’ near airport” – 11th March 2011
Guardian : “Is a new asylum facility simply child detention under another name?” – 23rd August 2011
Guardian : “Police investigate alleged assault on Nigerian mother on deportation flight” – 3rd Oct 2011
Guardian : “Child detention: has the government broken its promise to end it?” – 14th Oct 2011
Section 5: Recommendations and housekeeping points: The following is a listing of recommendations and housekeeping points included in this report. The reference numbers at the end of each refer to the paragraph location in the main report.
To UKBA and the centre manager
5.1 Force should never be used to effect the removal of pregnant women or of children. It should only ever be used in relation to such vulnerable groups in order to prevent harm. (HE.40)
Recommendations To the Chief Executive, UKBA
Escort vehicles and transfers
5.2 At the point of initial arrest parents should have adequate time to prepare themselves and their children for their journey, and UKBA teams should conduct the arrest as sensitively, calmly and quietly as possible. (1.8)
5.3 UKBA should ensure consistent quality of family welfare forms. (1.45)
5.4 UKBA should ensure that local immigration teams are consistent in their approach to detention. (1.70)
5.5 The legal basis for the operation of Cedars should be clear. (1.71)
5.6 All family welfare forms should contain detailed information on previous educational history and attainment. (3.10)
Preparation for removal and release
5.7 The centre should be informed of the views of the independent family returns panel prior to removal of the family. (4.9)
Recommendations To UKBA and the centre manager
5.8 ‘Lessons learned’ meetings should be held promptly. (1.44)
Use of force and single separation
5.9 Separation should be governed by clear rules and staff should be aware of how to record its use. The unit should be less stark, with some furniture and decoration. (1.57)
5.10 Complaints should be replied to in the language of the complaint. (2.23)
5.11 Parents should have medication in possession unless individual risk assessment indicates otherwise. (2.35)
5.12 A health needs assessment should be undertaken, including a mental health needs assessment. Appropriate access to adult, child and adolescent mental health services should be available. (2.36)
Recommendations To UKBA and the escort contractor
Escort vehicles and transfers
5.13 The handover from arrest teams to escorts should be conducted in a private location out of public view. (1.9)
Preparation for removal and release
5.14 Escort staff should be fully briefed on removal plans and any deviations should be fed back to the family returns panel. (4.10)
Recommendation To UKBA, escort contractor and centre manager
5.15 If allegations of assault made by detainees during removal attempts are supported by medical evidence, the removal should be delayed while the complaint is investigated. (4.11)
Recommendations To the escort contractor
Escorts vehicles and transfers
5.16 Escort staff should remain calm, polite and respectful at all times. (1.10)
5.17 Families should only be transported in appropriate and spacious vehicles, and held on them for the minimum possible time. (1.11)
5.18 Removal plans should be adhered to, and any deviations should be fed back promptly to the independent family returns panel. (1.12)
Use of force and single separation
5.19 Paramedics on escorts should focus on their primary duties and not operate hand-held cameras. (1.56)
Preparation for removal and release
5.20 Detainees should retain their mobile phones during removal unless an individual risk assessment determines otherwise. (4.13)
Recommendations To the centre manager
5.21 The reception process should be undertaken quickly and all relevant staff should be familiar with completing reception procedures. (1.19)
5.22 Key information should be available in an appropriate range of languages and formats including notices, booklets and DVDs. (1.20)
5.23 All clinical staff should receive training in child-specific care and treatment. (2.37)
5.24 Parents should be able to discuss their medical needs with health care staff in confidence. (2.38)
5.25 All relevant health care information should be received before families arrive on site. (2.39)
Preparation for removal and release
5.26 The visits area should afford detainees and their visitors privacy and should accommodate several families simultaneously. (4.12)
5.27 Children should be able to access social networking sites. (4.14)
Housekeeping point To the escort contractor and centre manager
5.28 Centre staff and staff undertaking health care duties on escorts should exchange full handover information. (2.40)
Housekeeping points To the centre manager
Suicide and self-harm
5.29 More staff should be trained as ACRT assessors. (1.32)
5.30 Notices promoting the Legal Ombudsman should be prominently displayed. (1.62)
Equality and diversity
5.31 The manager designated with lead responsibility for equality and diversity should receive formal training for this role. (2.14)
5.32 There should be one complaints box for G4S and UKBA. (2.24)
5.33 All medical literature such as the British National Formulary should be up to date. (2.41)
5.34 All wall displays should use age-appropriate language. (3.11)
Preparation for removal and release
5.35 ‘Destitute payments’ should be appropriately renamed. (4.15)