CHILD DETENTION: who benefits?

clare-sambrook-100By 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


  1. Frank Kihere Zimula says:

    Hi Clare,
    I just want to say a big thank you for your course, fighting for the voiceless and vulnerable small persons suffering at the hands of draconian and inhumane government policies.
    I myself, being a previous detainee at over 5 detention centres within a period of 4 months write this with huge experience. At one of these centres where I was detained (Tinsley House), I saw with my eyes children going through unbearable conditions that I could hardly believe I would exprience in a country like Britain. On so many occassion, these childrens mums exprienced traumatic conditions, didnt want to share any information with these children as to why they were in such conditions and also just by looking at the faces of these mostly very young mums, the child would draw a sense of dejection from his/her mum but with no other choice. Detaining an innocous human being is sad enough, but detaining a young, very innocent even being that they cannot be tried for any wrong or crime should be the defining scenario of all these political freaks who make these very inhumane policies.
    Positively, I have been granted asylum under the Geneva Convention grounds and on Humanitarian grounds as well. Am now studying for an M.A Human Rights and hope to finish next Summer.
    At this moment, I cannot do much but only to join such courses like yours. In case there is any other way I can be of any use to your organisation, don’t hesitate to contact me.
    And may God bless and reward you in whatever you do.
    For God and my Country.
    Frank Kihere Zimula

  2. […] response Clare Sambrook of the END CHILD DETENTION NOW campaign underlines further the dubious character of the Border Agency’s attempts ‘to […]

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