The Guardian reports that British Ministers are facing accusations that hundreds of children are being held unnecessarily in immigration detention centres as official figures revealed.
The figures, made public last week following pressure from children’s rights groups and MPs, showed that 470 minors were being detained with their families some under five years old.
Many of the families are from troubled countries such as Zimbabwe, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The UK has one of the worst records in Europe for detaining children, but accurate figures on how many are held, or for how long, have remained elusive.
MPs and children’s rights groups called for an end to the “national scandal” that has allowed children to be locked up unnecessarily.
Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the children’s commissioner for England, welcomed the publication of the figures, but said they raised important questions.
He said: “If they were allowed to stay at the end of their release, why did they have to go through the detention process in the first place?”
He described the fact that one in three had been held for longer than 28 days as “extremely worrying”.
Earlier this year, Aynsley-Green published a critical report into Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire which found the average stay for children had increased, and the decision to detain for longer than 28 days failed to take into account any welfare concerns raised.
Damian Green, shadow immigration minister, described the government’s attempts to find alternatives to detention for families as “feeble”, adding: “It would be better and cheaper if we don’t have to lock up young children for weeks and sometimes months. Other countries seem to do better than we do at finding alternatives.”
The average cost of holding someone in an immigration detention centre is £130 per day.
The Home Office said today :
“UK Border Agency fully recognises its responsibilities towards children but these responsibilities have to be exercised alongside our duty to enforce the laws on immigration and asylum. If a family decide to appeal against the courts decision while being detained the removal process is halted. If a judge agrees that there are fresh grounds for an appeal the family are usually returned back to the community until the case has been reviewed.”
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