Judicial review challenge to the Government’s family detention policy

On Tuesday 26 October, a judicial review challenge to the Government’s family detention
policy reaches the High Court in London. The Claimants – two single mothers and their
young children – are seeking an order declaring the Government’s family detention
policy unlawful.

In May 2010, the Coalition Government announced that it would end the detention of children
for immigration purposes, a practice that the Deputy Prime Minister described as “a moral
outrage”. Five months on, children continue to be held at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal
Centre for indeterminate periods in prison-like conditions, the Government’s plans having stalled
and been watered down.

Last February, Reetha Suppiah, Sakinat Bello and their children were arrested by UK Border
Agency officers in dawn raids. They and their children were loaded into vans with caged
windows and driven to Yarl’s Wood in a state of confusion and distress. Reetha and her two
boys (aged 1 and 11) were detained for 17 days, whilst Sakinat and her two year-old daughter
were held for 12 days before being released back into the community. Both families had been
reporting regularly to the immigration authorities prior to their arrest.

Upon arrival at Yarl’s Wood, all of the children became sick, suffering from diarrhoea and
vomiting. It appears that the welfare needs of the families were not properly taken into account
or even assessed prior to the decision to detain, and the detention experience has had a
profound effect upon them. Reetha’s eldest child was particularly badly affected and recalls
seeing “policemen everywhere” in Yarl’s Wood. Since his release, he has lived in continuous
fear of re-arrest.

The families claim that their detention was unlawful and that it subjected them to cruel, inhuman
and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
They also allege breaches of the children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the

Jim Duffy of Public Interest Lawyers said today:

“Our clients’ experiences and the broad expert consensus point to a practice that is
inhumane, destructive and unnecessary. Child detention has to end now.”

The claim will be heard over three days from 26th until 28th October.

For further information, please contact:

Jim Duffy on 07912 691 727