Monday, 30 November 2009

Migrant Children Should Not Be Held In Detention At All

The home affairs select committee in a new report claims that:
  • on average, children spend over a fortnight in detention (15.58 days) and that it "is not uncommon" for children to be detained for up to 2 months*;
  • “nearly 1000 children a year remain in detention”, and ... that at any one time up to 35 children are detained; and
  • the UKBA do not keep figure on the numbers of families detained merely the numbers of individual children.

They also note that “there is no evidence that families with children systematically disappear” when judicial reviews and other legal appeals are pending. Therefore they conclude that migrant children (and this includes the children of migrants that have been born in this country despite the report not making this clear) are being held 'too long'. After all, as Keith Vaz the committee chair states, "These children have done nothing wrong. They should not be being punished. The Yarl's Wood detention centre remains essentially a prison, and is no place for a child."

So then why are children detained at all? The UK should stop this barbaric practice now.

The committee also points out that “the National Audit Office (NAO) found earlier this year … [that] over 90% of judicial reviews do not even get leave for hearing” and that the NAO also suggest that “the low level of success and impact of removals suggests that the Judicial Review is used to block the UKBA from taking removal action”. The committee of course except this argument unquestioningly but there are other reasons why this is happening.

Firstly, the whole asylum system is orientated to minimising the number of people successfully claiming leave to remain in the UK. This is the essence of the 'fast track' system and, just like the home affairs select committee, asylum seekers maintain a naive belief in the efficacy of the UK's judicial systems. In addition, there is one major problem that few seem to be willing to talk about - the large number of lawyers out there practising asylum law that are no better than people traffickers, exploiting migrants because they are vulnerable easy targets. The poor advice and representation they provide migrants is something that migrant support activists come across on an almost daily basis.

* As “it costs £130 a day to keep a person in detention ... detention between 4 and 8 weeks ... can mean that the detention of a family of four costs over £20,000."

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