Major expansion of family detention facilities planned by UKBA
No Borders Brighton is urging Crawley Borough Council to reject plans to turn the Mercure Hotel on Povey Cross Road into a removal centre, writes Miranda Wilson in IRR News. The group claims the design of the 254-bed hotel means it could only be converted to house families. It strongly opposes the detention of children who it says: ‘are especially vulnerable to the physical and psychological effects of imprisonment and many end up suffering from illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, effects suffered even after a brief period of detention.’
This news confirms the view of End Child Detention Now and fellow anti-detention campaigners that the UKBA continues to use detention of children and families not as ‘a last resort’ but as an instrument of policy with a view to removing as many asylum claimants who are initially refused leave to remain as possible, while ‘deterring’ any would be refugee or asylum seeker with the threat of destitution, detention and deportation. A policy that a recent Refugee Council research report has shown to have no significant impact on the destinations of would be asylum seekers.
Despite the overwhelming medical evidence that detention does long term harm to children who are already vulnerable and traumatised, it is clear that the planned expansion of the vastly expensive UKBA detention estate will require thousands more children to suffer what the Royal Colleges of Medicine have described as ‘signficant harm‘. An assessment which is backed up by the Chief Inspector of Prisons recently published report of an unannounced inspection of the Short Term Holding Facilty, Electric House in Croydon in June last year which discovered from the logs
that the four-yearold, who had been brought in out of hours, had not been accompanied by an adult. In addition, these out-of-hours logs did not record how long the person was detained or where they were sent afterwards.
The report also noted that ‘[i]nformation about the detention of children was not properly monitored, and although there was a child protection policy…it had not been agreed by the local safeguarding children board. While ‘i]mmigration staff had received child protection training’ – ‘Group 4 Securicor staff were not sufficiently trained in child protection issues and there was no child protection coordinator for the facility’. Suicide attempts are so common that the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons recommends that detention staff carry ‘anti-ligature’ knives at all times.
If these findings were published in relation to the running of a local authority children’s home the chances are it would be immediately shut down, but because these children are ‘in the care’ of the UKBA and their private contractors, the local authority child protection system either turns a blind eye, or in the case of Yarl’s Wood, actively cooperates with a child detention regime which the Children’s Commissioner has declared to be harmful to children. Not only should local authorities be denying planning permission for new immigration prisons, under national and international child protection law they should be demanding that the existing facilities are immediately closed.