No “ifs”, no “buts, detention of children is wrong and we should secure its permanent banning

13 December 2013
Panos Christodoulou

Let’s make it clear once again; for many reasons nobody can be proud of the new Immigration Bill, which is expected to cause more problems and increase the stigma that migrants face. Although campaigners and lobbyists have already warned of the implications of the Bill’s excessive controls, the government seems determined to pass it as legislation as quickly as possible. Only the amendments, put down by all parties, have delayed the speed of the passage of the Bill through Parliament since they need to be voted by MPs across the house. At least there is hope that something good can come out of that amendment procedure.

The Citizens UK (CUK) is lobbying for a particular amendment related to migrant children’s rights. CUK has asked for legislation to secure the end of children detention in immigration removal centres as part of the Immigration Bill. The opportunity for it is unique as MPs have the chance to prove that they support something really important even though that the Bill is generally a hostile one.

Why? Are children detained for immigration purposes?

 Thanks to Citizens UK’s 2010 Sanctuary Pledge campaign, which called for an end to the locking up of children and their families in immigration removal centres, thousands of children are no longer being detained needlessly. But this has been undermined by the fact that UKBA still detains some children in Immigration detention centres.

Surely the detention of children is necessary in some cases?

No matter what, child detention is wrong! It is not in the best interest of the child. Detention centres are bad for children’s health. Detained children were found to be experiencing mental and physical health difficulties, closely related to the detention experience.

Surely all the above is enough?

No! We need to guarantee that this progress is protected for the future, to ensure better accountability and delivery of what has been agreed. This can be achieved only if MPs put into primary legislation the ban on detention of children. Parliamentarians’ support of relevant amendments to the Immigration Bill at the Report Stage (which is due) will secure in law the progress that has been made.

As a humane and decent country we are obliged to protect children no matter where they come from. That legislation would be a reassurance towards children that we respect their rights and we do not allow any cruel or harmful punishments such as detention on immigration grounds. Therefore CUK fought for abandoning of this shameful practice.

Thanks to the Sanctuary Pledge campaign, since 2010, 3075 children have been saved from the trauma of being locked up in immigration removal centres like Yarl’s Wood. The aforementioned campaign received support from all the major political parties and from David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, who also agreed for further reforms in the family removals process that would lead to a more humane pre departure accommodation for those who are being removed after their cases were heard and exhausted. These reforms are set out in the Home Office’s Review into Ending the Detention of Children for Immigration Purposes.

You can help by writing to your MP and asking them to support the amendment.  You can use this model letter, or you can write your own.  You can find who your MP is by typing your post code here.

Dear [Name of MP],

Re: Legislation to secure the end of child detention in immigration removal centres

I am writing as your constituent [to ask for your support for legislation to secure the end of child detention in immigration removal centres as part of the Immigration Bill, which is likely to reach the Report Stage in early January 2014.

Citizens UK’s 2010 Sanctuary Pledge campaign, which called for an end to the locking up of innocent children and their families in immigration removal centres like Yarl’s Wood, received support from candidates from all of the major parties, and from Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Gordon Brown at the Citizens UK General Election Assembly on May 3rd 2010. 

We are delighted with the success of the new policy, which means that since the new family removals process began in 2010, over 3,000 children in this country have benefited from being kept out of immigration removal centres. We hope you would agree that we are a more humane and decent country for not locking up innocent children unnecessarily in prison-like immigration removal centres like Yarl’s Wood.  So we are calling for legislation that enshrines this policy in law – and also reflects the related overhaul of the family removals process announced in 2010.

We anticipate the Government proposing an amendment on this issue when the Immigration Bill reaches Report Stage in the House of Commons, and urge you, along with MPs from all parties, to support it. 

I would be grateful if you could raise this with your party’s Home Affairs lead and encourage them to welcome this development.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name and address][image src=”” width=”” height=”” title=”” style=””]

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