House of Commons Home Affairs Committee: The Detention of Children in the Immigration System
First Report of Session 2009–10, Report, together with formal minutes Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 24 November 2009:
4. We were told that “nearly 1000 children a year remain in detention”, and we have learned that at any one time up to 35 children are detained. However, Mr Wood explained that because of legal reviews and appeals of cases there is often a degree of “re-detention”— “there are duplicates in the sense of families detained twice”. We have been unable to discover how many individual families with children have been detained in the last year.
That such figures are not readily available is troubling. In future, Government statistics should be more informative and state how many separate individuals have been detained, not merely how many people have passed through detention.
5. We suggest that local authorities play a greater role in this area. We recommend that when children are detained for any period of time, the local authority in which they are held is informed and then notified once the period of detention is complete. Not only will this improve the collection of statistical information, but it should also encourage local authorities to undertake their statutory responsibilities with regards to child
welfare and encourage greater council and social services oversight of the wellbeing of the detained children.
6. We were also told by Mr Wood that the average length of time that families spend in detention is decreasing: “last year the average length of detention for family units and for children in particular was 16 days. It is 15.58 days this year”. This is a welcome development; however, it must be borne in mind that even on these improved figures the average length of time that families with children are spending in detention remains over a fortnight, so in our view more must be done. We are also wary of relying too heavily on a crude mean average when assessing UKBA’s performance in this area, as within the average figure of 15.58 days there are many extreme examples. On 30 June 2009, the only date for which figures have been released, 10 of the 35 children in detention had been held for between 29 days and 61 days. This is an unacceptably long time and it suggests that some part of the judicial or immigration system has failed these persons.
7. We do not understand why, if detention is the final step in the asylum process, and there is no evidence of families systematically “disappearing” or absconding, families are detained pending judicial reviews and other legal appeals. The detention of children for indeterminate periods of time (possibly for 6–8 weeks), pending legal appeals must be avoided. We recommend that after a child has spent an initial fortnight in detention and every seven days thereafter, UKBA notifies the Home Office, and the Children’s Commissioner as to why detention for this amount of time is justified and why the
continued detention of this child is necessary.
8. We further recommend that UKBA consider the use of electronic tags, reporting requirements and residence restrictions while reserving the right to detain as an alternative to indeterminate detention pending final legal decisions.More generally we urge UKBA to work from the principle that the detention of young children must only ever be used as a last resort and the length of time spent in detention should be reduced.
Previous report here: