THE DETENTION OF CHILDREN A statement from the Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, Chair of the Urban Bishops Panel.

On 2nd February the Church celebrates the value and potential of a child’s life as we remember the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

In the UK the value and potential of many children is denied through the continued practice of detaining children in immigration detention centres. Each year over 2000 children are detained in prison-like conditions. No limit is set to the time in which children may be detained.

As Bishop of Ripon and Leeds I am aware of the impact of removal and detention on those who experience it as well as those left behind, in our schools, communities and congregations. I welcome the initiative of the End Child Detention Now Campaign.

Children are detained through no fault of their own. They are often removed from familiar settings in sudden and alarming circumstances leaving behind friends, toys and personal possessions. Detention is a distressing experience. Child detainees experience insomnia, bed wetting, weight loss, speech regression, depression, and are known to self-harm. The children of asylum seekers are a vulnerable group, made more so by this policy which has no regard for their mental health. The experience of detention often evokes the trauma they have experience when flees their country of origin.

With the Children’s Commissioner, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of General Practitioners, the Children Society and many other bodies concerned with the well being of children I believe the continued incarceration of children to be a shameful practice for our society in terms of child welfare and human rights and must stop.

The continued detention of children must stop. I call on the Secretary of State to introduce humane-community based arrangements for children and families which recognise the need to put the welfare of children first, at the earliest opportunity.

+ John Ripon and Leeds

1st February 2010

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