CHILD DETENTION: who benefits?
By Clare Sambrook
THERE is no evidence that asylum-seekers with children are likely to abscond, yet the Government forcibly detains at least 2,000 children and babies every year and holds them, sometimes for months on end, in conditions known to damage their physical and mental health.
Why on earth would our Government do that?
One principle that has guided investigations since Roman times is: Cui Bono? Who benefits?
Business is booming at G4S, the company that runs Tinsley House Removal Centre where last month ten-year-old Adeoti Ogunsola, after being forcibly redetained, tried to strangle herself.
Reporting rising profits recently, G4S — slogan, ‘Securing Your World’ — said growth in government business, such as Tinsley House, had offset weakness in commercial sectors.
G4S operates in ‘sectors where security and safety risks are considered a strategic threat’.
Adeoti is not a threat to national security, just a child whose headteacher has said of her detention and redetention nightmare: ‘This has gone on for a whole year now and is an unnecessary act of mental cruelty which is affecting her emotional and mental wellbeing.’
Last year G4S handed chief executive, Nick Buckles, a £1.4 million pay package. That’s £3,835 every day. He owns £4 million in G4S shares, tipped by the Daily Telegraph as, ‘a solid buy for these uncertain times’.
Christopher Hyman, another £3,000-a-day man, is chief executive of Serco, ‘Bringing Service to Life’ and misery to thousands of children who’ve been through his Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Traumatised child inmates, who must carry ID cards at all times, refer to Yarl’s Wood as, ‘prison’ and ‘the camp’.
Government and the security industry have been pursuing a ‘closer strategic partnership’. Serco boasts a ‘substantial order book’ fattened by rising pressures on governments, including the parlous state of public finances and challenges such as ‘terrorism, congestion, migration and climate change’.
Nobody wants to upset an industry that ministers view as vital to our wilting economic prospects, and upon which we are increasingly — some might say recklessly — reliant.
Serco builds prisons, trains RAF helicopter crews, helps run the National Nuclear Laboratory and the Atomic Weapons Establishment. Lately it’s been targeting the ‘significant pathology market’, starting with the NHS.
Former home secretary, Dr John Reid, still a serving MP, is taking £50,000 a year from G4S for ‘consultancy’. For his new paymasters, he has been hosting ‘government and security industry breakfast briefings’. In the media he’s talking up the scary threats and looming crises to which his business partners offer lucrative solutions.
Meanwhile, according to medical research by Lorek et al in peer-reviewed journal Child Abuse and Neglect, children in detention centres experience ‘increased fear due to being suddenly placed in a facility resembling a prison. . . .the abrupt loss of home, school, friends and all that was familiar to them’. Some exhibit ‘sexualised behaviour’. Older children are so stressed they wet their beds and soil their pants.
Cui Bono? Some extremely wealthy grownups.
And the Government?
Advisers are telling ministers that if they stop detaining children they’ll be seen as soft on asylum seekers and get slaughtered in the tabloids.
So, in order to look tough, the minister Phil Woolas sanctions dawn raids on vulnerable families who are at no risk of absconding in full knowledge that arrest and detention wrecks children’s lives.
Let’s pause for a moment’s reflection on that.
Moral cowardice aside, they’ve got it wrong. This is not about immigration. This is state-sponsored child abuse. It might be only a matter of time before a child or baby dies. The Government must end child detention now.
Clare Sambrook is a journalist, novelist and a co-ordinator of the citizens’ campaign END CHILD DETENTION NOW http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoChildDetention/