Children held at immigration centre

Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Three children were detained at an immigration centre, an inspection found.

A report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons said three children were held at Campsfield House, Oxfordshire.

In two cases it took too long to carry out an age assessment and in one the detention had been authorised despite records showing that the detainee was under 18.

The coalition Government committed to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes when it formed in 2010.

Inspectors who visited the facility in August last year found that in December 2012 a young person was assessed as being an adult by social services and held for 62 days before a second investigation established that the detainee was in fact 16 years old.

In May 2013 a Home Office official stated that the detention of a teenager was “appropriate” even though computer records clearly showed that he was 17 years old.

After three days at Campsfield House, the error was uncovered and he was released.

The report said no children were held at the centre from the start of 2014 to the inspection.

Overall, inspectors found Campsfield House was a “safe and decent establishment” where staff worked professionally and sensitively with detainees.

But it said that some detainees had been adversely affected by “significant weaknesses” in the immigration processes outside the control of those working in the centre.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said: “Overall, this was a very positive inspection.

“Staff and managers at Campsfield House should be congratulated in dealing professionally and sensitively with detainees who were going through what, for many, was a difficult and unhappy time.

“However, whatever the strengths of the centre, detention should not be used for children, victims of torture or anyone for unreasonable lengths of time.

“Further improvements to national processes are required to ensure this does not happen.”

Judith Dennis, of charity Refugee Council, said: “Unaccompanied children arrive in the UK alone, frightened and often traumatised.

“It’s deeply disturbing that they can then be thrown into adult detention centres and left to fend for themselves.”

“The Government appears so intent on locking up as many asylum seekers as possible it that it’s wrongly imprisoning children too.

“It’s high time the inhumane, inefficient and expensive practice of detaining asylum seekers is consigned to the history books, where it belongs.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We take our responsibilities in cases involving children extremely seriously and this Government has legislated to end the detention of children for immigration purposes in all but exceptional circumstances.

“But we have always been clear that there are certain situations where we may be forced to detain children temporarily. These may include border turnaround cases, or cases involving unaccompanied children, until alternative accommodation is arranged.

“We are pleased that this report confirms that Campsfield House continues to be a particularly well-operated centre; that it provides a safe and secure place for detainees and staff; that relationships between them are positive and that vulnerable detainees who may be at risk of self-harm are well cared for.

“We are also pleased that the report notes the continuous improvements being made within the centre.

“We will consider the contents of this report and respond to each of the recommendations in due course.”

Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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