Petition to: end child immigration detention – Government response

This petition is now closed, as its deadline has passed.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to end child immigration detention. More details

Submitted by Esme Madill of End Child Detention – Deadline to sign up by: 06 June 2010 – Signatures: 4,925

More details from petition creator

In the UK we routinely detain the children of asylum seekers in removal centres, prisons in all but name.

We detain 2000 children every year, many for months on end. These children have committed no crime. They, or their parents, have simply exercised their right to claim asylum.

The children of asylum seekers are the only children who may be detained without time limit and the UK is the only European country where this happens. Australia, for example, has pledged to never put another asylum seeking child in a detention centre.

For many families, detention unearths past terrors and causes psychological distress. Cut off from family and friends, children in detention experience insomnia, weight loss, depression and self harm. Children’s Commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley Green, visited Yarl’s Wood removal centre to interview child detainees and called for child detention to end immediately.

If enough people speak out the government will have to listen. Please sign our petition.

Thank you.

Government response

The Coalition: Our programme for Government”, published on 20 May, stated: ‘We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes’. This remains the case.

Significant progress has been made in working towards this commitment.  We have already announced that the family unit at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre is to close.   We are currently piloting (in the North West and London) some proposed changes to how we work with families and plan for their departure.  We continue to consult widely and many non-government organisations continue to contribute their advice.

However, our commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes does not mean families with children, who have no right to remain in the UK, can do so.  We are mindful of our obligations under the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights, both in carrying out the duties of the UK Border Agency and in developing new policies.  It remains the case that only those who both the Agency and the courts are satisfied do not need the UK’s protection, and refuse to leave voluntarily, face removal.  The instigation of any family removal will be initiated only when all appeal rights have been exhausted.

The pilots are exploring alternatives to detention. Families in the pilot process are given a minimum of two weeks to consider voluntary departure options.  The period of consideration is based on the individual circumstances of the family.  Following the expiry of this period of consideration there is a second notice period, again of two weeks before the family face enforced removal.

The pilots are seeking to take an approach which acknowledges that the welfare of the children involved must be taken into account at every stage.  They are exploring how we can strengthen the way the UK Border Agency engages with families and takes decisions, with the aim of giving families the opportunity to control how they return home, and to do so with dignity.

The experience of the pilots, supported by the wide consultation instigated by the UKBA, continues to feed into the ongoing review of Child Detention.