Category Archives: Detention

No to the Pre-Departure Prison – whatever you want to call it

In a use of language that would fit snugly into Orwell’s 1984, the end of child detention is being bolstered by the opening of a family prison. But there’s no need to be concerned, for this is no ordinary family prison, there are two significant differences: Continue reading

Heathrow Holding Facility – banging reports against a brick wall

The Independent Monitoring Board has published its report on the welfare of detainees held at Heathrow’s non-residential short-term holding facilities over the year to January 2011. During the period covered by the report, the facilities were run by private company G4S.

The report expresses exasperation over the failure to make changes recommended in previous reports – ‘Yet again we draw attention to the fact that men, women and children continue to be detained in unsuitable conditions’ (p. 10). The ‘regrettably degrading features’ still in evidence include a lack of proper sleeping and washing facilities, poor ventilation and temperature control, and the presence in one facility of strip lighting that cannot be dimmed at night (p. 4). The report remarks that poor conditions might perhaps be ‘tolerable’ if holding times were ‘very short’, but they are not (p. 10). Continue reading

UKBA’s short term holding facilities – an inspector reports

Eaton House short term holding facility, Hounslow, West London

In January, HM Inspectorate of Prisons published a review of conditions in UKBA short-term holding facilities (STHFs) between 2004 and 2010. These facilities usually hold people who are awaiting deportation or being investigated by immigration officers following arrival.

Drawing on 81 reports published over the six-year period, the Inspectorate notes a general improvement in the physical environment of STHFs and the management and care of detainees (p. 6).  Continue reading

Walumba Lumba (Congo) and Kadian Mighty (Jamaica) v SSHD- Case- note

Walumba Lumba (Congo) and Kadian Mighty (Jamaica) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) [2011] UKSC 12


For around 15 years, SSHD maintained a published detention policy which included a presumption in favour of liberty. However, following adverse publicity in 2006 caused by the mistaken release of Foreign National Prisoners (FNPs) the then SSHD adopted a new unpublished policy which imposed a near blanket ban on their release.

In September 2008, SSHD amended the published policy – replacing all references to a presumption of liberty with a presumption of detention, but by January 2009 the published policy was changed again to omit the initial amendment. Continue reading

The Reality of Indefinite Detention in the UK

Following yesterday’s welcome announcement that pre-charge detention for suspected terrorists  is to be reduced from 28 to 14 days, Hsiao-Hung Pai takes a look at the reality of indefinite detention of immigrants. She is a journalist and the author of Chinese Whispers: the True Story Behind Britain’s Hidden Army of Labour, Hsiao-Hung was shortlisted for the Orwell prize for her fantastic coverage of the Chinese cockle-pickers tragedy in Morecambe Bay in 2004.

Dover Removal Centre

Li Ming sounded particularly anxious when he called me from Dover Immigration Removal Centre. He said that his fellow detainee, a quiet man from Mongolia, had attempted suicide. “He’s been locked up long enough to lose hope,” Li said.


As they sent the Mongolian man away to another removal centre, Li thought about his own future. This will be the third year he spends in detention. “I can see the blueness of the sea from the windows here,” he said, “It reminds me of the freedom that we can’t reach.” Continue reading

State Sponsored Cruelty

The report published earlier this year by Medical Justice entitled ‘State Sponsored Cruelty’ : Children in immigration Detention was dismissed by a judge as biased and sensationalist largely because of its title; it was unclear how much of the report the judge had actually read. Looking into immigration detention of children and the coalition government’s commitment to end child detention, the title is not some critic trying to condemn the Government for its failings. It is a quote from the deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, as he described the practice of detaining children.

Continue reading

Child abuse at Yarl’s Wood detention centre

A five-year-old child was sexually assaulted at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre – and the authorities failed to investigate the incident, a report published today reveals.

The boy was in the care of immigration services when he was found engaging in a sexual act with another five-year-old and there is evidence he had been abused by an eleven and fifteen year old during his stay.

However, the police failed to properly investigate the incident while social workers misunderstood the circumstances around “consent” at such a young age and failed to fulfil their obligations because the children were not criminally liable.

The report from the Bedfordshire Local Safeguarding Children Board said the families involved could not take part in its investigation because they had already been deported.

The parents of the abused child were not properly informed while the older children continued to pose a risk after the incident in the autumn of 2009, according to the report’s author.

Malcolm Stevens, former senior government advisor on Social Services said: ‘Yarl’s Wood failed these children. Here is evidence of whole system failure in and around Yarl’s Wood.

“This calls into question whether the children there now are being properly looked after. It calls into question the competence of UKBA to conduct the current review into arrangements for children.

“The government urgently needs to appointment someone with independence, experience and professional competence to run the Review into ending child detention.”

The report found that the local authority earned of evidence that children below the age of criminal responsibility engaged in sexual activity but failed to carry out adequate enquiries in respect of two families.

The police inappropriately terminated their inquiries without reference to specialist child protection officers while the GP involved failed to recognise that this was a child protection situation and failed to ensure that the child was seen by a paediatrician.

Moreover, UKBA officials were reprimanded for not fully briefing ministers on the incident, which may have led to a political reappraisal of the detention of children for immigration purposes.

SOURCE: Clare Sambrook

When they said ‘We will end child detention,’ they meant ‘Keep on arresting babies’

by Clare Sambrook

At 11.36 this morning the mother of an 8-month old baby made a desperate plea for help on her mobile.

‘I told them please don’t send me and my baby in the van for nine hours, she is too young, I asked them to speak to my lawyer. But she just told me, “Look either you go in the van or we will take your baby in a separate van and you won’t see her until you get to Yarl’s Wood.”

According to Robina Qureshi, the Glasgow-based charity director who took the mother’s call, 25 year old Sehar Shebaz had been vomiting since the early hours and baby Wanya was distressed.

Sehar and Wanya, who have committed no crime, are being forcibly taken from Dungavel Prison in Scotland on a 356 mile journey to Yarl’s Wood, the run-for-profit Bedfordshire detention centre.

Qureshi says Sehar, from Pakistan, who has lived in the UK for three years, has never tried to abscond, and has reported fortnightly to Brand Street Reporting Centre, as required.

Indeed, Sehar and Wanya were seized on Monday while reporting at Brand Street as usual, just days after the new government claimed: ‘We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.’

Only last Saturday immigration minister Damian Green confessed to the Guardian: ‘I have visited Yarl’s Wood on several occasions and I have always been distressed by the sight of children behind bars.’

This very morning the minister announced — under pressure from the Scottish government — that no more children will be held at Dungavel.

Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell has informed Home Secretary Theresa May of his ‘strong concerns’ about Sehar’s and Wanya’s detention and Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner Tam Baillie has urged their swift release.

Qureshi, whose Glasgow-based charity, Positive Action in Housing, is spearheading an emergency campaign, says: ‘The new coalition government’s policy to end detention in Scotland immediately is a joke. Those very same children, as young as 8 months old, are being driven hundreds of miles to be locked up in Yarl’s Wood instead. Asylum families are the least likeliest to abscond yet public money is being spent on getting tough against asylum seekers. It’s a source of utter shame to say one thing and change nothing, just keep on keeping on with this inhumanity.’

She added: ‘We ask for assurances from immigration minister Damian Green that in the spirit of goodwill, he will ensure Sehar and her baby are released and allowed to return to their home in Glasgow on compassionate grounds.’

Petition to end detention of children

End Child Detention has launched a national petition to Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling for an end of the scandal of children being held in detention centres. To sign the petition, simply visit the 10 Downing Street website HERE. The current issue of the JCWI bulletin, available for members free of charge, contains the following article about child detention. To join the JCWI, visit our website HERE.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson now has a statutory duty of care for children held in detention by UKBA immigration officials.

The Home Affairs Select Committee reported in November that still too many children were being held in detention for far too long. The chairman, Keith Vaz said: “These children have done nothing wrong. They should not be being punished.

“The Yarl’s Wood detention centre remains essentially a prison, and is no place for a child. It must always be absolutely the last resort to keep a child detained for any length of time. Families with children are not a high risk for absconding.”

During the first six months of this year a total of 470 children were being held in detention centres in the UK, with over 70 percent seeking asylum from countries like Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

In February this year one family was awarded £150,000 after the government admitted they were detained unlawfully and one of the children had suffered post traumatic stress disorder as a result.

The announcement of the new responsibilities for the Home Office in November this year follows the publication of a damning independent report exposing the appalling impact of detention.

The report, The Mental and Physical Health Difficulties of Children Held Within a British Immigration Centre, was the first of its kind and the results should make for very uncomfortable reading for Mr Johnson.

A team of paediatricians and a clinical psychologist studied a small group of 24 children aged between three months and 17 alongside their parent or carer between February and August 2006.

The children had been held for between 11 and 155 days and the medical professionals found significant evidence of stress and depression. Many of the parents exhibited severe psychological distress and many reported suicidal thoughts.

Helen, a detainee, told Bail for Immigrant Detainees (BID) the experience had a real impact on her one-year-old son. “He was a very happy child, but when we left detention the second time he just started withdrawing…He becomes aggressive. He wasn’t eating, he was that thin.”

The pilot study found such experiences were widespread in detention centres. All eleven children seen by the psychologist reported symptoms of depression and anxiety since being detained.

The children told of feeling disorientated, confused and frightened by their new environment. One child experienced the return of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder first brought on by his experiences of war.

Most of the 20 children who were seen by the paediatrician were also suffering physical symptoms including pains, headaches, coughing and vomiting after being held in detention.

A two-year-old child was admitted to hospital suffering pneumonia. Eight of the children in detention lost weight including a two year old and a nine year old who both lost more than 10 percent of their body weight.

There is currently no time limit on the detention of children and Home Office statistics show that one in three children are held for more than a month.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2008 concluded the UK government should “intensify its efforts to ensure that detention of asylum-seeking and migrant children is always used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”.

The Children’s Society and BID have joined forces to campaign for an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes under the banner of OutCry! with funding from Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

The OutCry! says the government’s use of detention is wholly disproportionate and there is no evidence that families are systematically at risk of absconding if they are not detained.

Amanda Shah, Assistant Director of Policy at BID said: “In our view the logical next step is for the government to immediately end the immigration detention of children and their families – a practice we believe to be a national scandal.”

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