21 July 2016
The Government announced today that they are moving the location of child detention from Cedars Pre-Departure Accommodation to a ‘discrete unit’ within Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre, near Gatwick Airport.
Cedars Pre Departure Accommodation currently detains families with children facing forced removal. There is a 72 hour detention time limit for families with children, extendable up to seven days with ministerial authorization.
This was the first official statement by the new Immigration Minister, Robert Goodwill. Goodwill inherits the detention reform programme started by his predecessor, James Brokenshire, in response to a number of damning reports which exposed the harm detention causes and called for radical reform of the system. In his statement, the Minister explained that this decision was made ‘on value for money grounds’ since the facility was not used very frequently.
Cedars Pre-Departure Accommodation was build as part of the Coalition Government’s pledge to end immigration detention of children in 2010. The family returns model, overseen by the Independent Family Returns Panel, was introduced as part of these reforms. This new process has reduced the number of children detained, although it has not entirely eradicated child detention.
The latest official statistics illustrate this downward trend. According to the National Statistics ‘The number of children entering detention in the year ending March 2016 was 110, 24% lower than the previous year (144). This was a 90% fall compared with the 2009, the year prior to the changes (1,119).’
(Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics January to March 2016, available on this page.
Barnardo’s, a children’s charity involved in the running of Cedars, issued a statement expressing their concern that the welfare of children will be compromised by the move to Tinsley House. They will not be working with families with children detained at the new Pre-Departure Accommodation at Tinsley House.
In the last unannounced inspection report, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prison, while stating that ‘Cedars is a high quality, well managed institution’, acknowledged the distress experienced by detained families as ‘disturbing’. The report says ‘Among the 42 families held in 2013, force (mostly low level) had been used on 10 occasions, suicide and self-harm procedures had been initiated 25 times and there had been two recorded incidents of actual self-harm. Detainees had been placed on constant watch on 12 occasions.’
Eiri Ohtani, of the Detention Forum said:
‘There is global recognition and consensus that detention is never in the best interests of the child.
‘The priority for the Government should be to continue to work towards eradicating child detention, in line with the commitment made in 2010 to end detention of children which remains unfulfilled. The Government has also recently promised to reform the detention system, reflecting the findings of the Shaw Review and the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention.
‘While we acknowledge that the number of children detained has declined since 2010, moving the location of child detention to the grounds of a detention centre could further compromise the welfare of children who continue to be detained.’
Ali McGinley, of the Association of the Visitors to Immigration Detainees added:
‘At a time when the welfare needs of the most vulnerable have been prioritised by a Government commissioned review, the Shaw Review and while steps are being taken to reduce the detention of vulnerable people such as pregnant women, this move represents a huge step backwards in terms of the detention of children, arguably the most vulnerable of all.
‘Transferring their detention from Cedars to Tinsley House, an immigration removal centre, is a retrograde move that will see children held behind bars in a higher security environment wholly incompatible with their welfare needs.’