Detaining children by another name

Detaining children is not a necessary evil, despite the Coalition’s approach

Heaven Crawley, OpenDemocracy, 11 April

The announcement by the Coalition Government back in May 2010 that it would be ending the detention of children for immigration purposes was widely welcomed. Finally the wealth of accumulated evidence on the gap between policy and practice in decisions to detain, and on the negative impacts of detention on children’s mental and physical well-being was being taken into account. Or so it seemed. The introduction of ‘a radical new process’ by the Home Office for removing families with children who have no right to remain in the UK raises significant concerns about whether the Government has delivered on its commitment to end the detention of children…

This facility is not the only place where children are to be detained. The family unit at Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre near Gatwick Airport is currently undergoing a £1 million refurbishment in order to accommodate 38 beds and up to eight families. The immigration minister, Damian Green, in a written answer to a parliamentary question on 8th March 2011 confirmed that there “may also be the occasional need to use Tinsley for criminal or other high-risk families who could not be accommodated safely in the pre-departure accommodation but this would be rare.” It is not clear how “criminal” or “high-risk” families are to be defined, or indeed why significant public funds are being spent on the refurbishment of facilities that will only “rarely” be used.

The continuing detention of children by another name suggests that the Government does not consider that it is possible to end the detention of children altogether. Detention, it seems, is viewed as a “necessary evil” for delivering a robust immigration control policy in the face of resistance on the part of families to co-operate with the removal process.