LibLink: Nick Clegg and Barbara Nalumu – We are proud of having ended child detention

One of the moments I will never forget from the heartbreaking night of the 2011 Holyrood election was our Edinburgh Central candidate Alex Cole-Hamilton’s tweet:

Ending Labour’s  horrendous policy, whereby children were locked up for indeterminate periods in horrible institutions like Yarl’s Wood and Dungavel, is one of the great things to come out of this coalition. Nobody’s saying the UK Border Agency is now perfect. Far from it. But on this, there can be no doubt that the Liberal Democrats ended an unacceptable, inhumane scandal.

Nick Clegg and Barbara Nalumu from Citizens UK, the organisation who came to Liberal Democrat Conference to thank us for ending child detention, have written an article in the Guardian on the subject, responding to criticism that child detention is still going on. They wrote:

Importantly, the new measures we have taken, such as the Independent Family Returns Panel, have ensured that the vast majority of children and families can stay in their communities before returning home.

Those who can’t are accommodated in the new “exceptional facility” – Cedars, which consists of nine self-contained, family-friendly apartments and is a world away from the infamous family unit at Yarl’s Wood (which was closed by the coalition government). Barnardo’s provides emotional support and educational play to help families and children understand the process they are going through. Cedars is required because there will always be exceptional cases in which families, who the law says should be returned home, need a decent stopping off point before they can board a plane. This is a necessary part of a civilised but effective immigration system.

You can read the whole article here.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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12 Comments

  • What about Tinsley House?

    Do we really need another misleading article that claims to have ended child detention

  • The guardian also ran another piece last week. See
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/britain-sill-locking-up-children

    “Yet the government’s own figures show that the number of children they are detaining is on the rise. A total of 91 children were detained last year. In the first six months of this year 107 children were detained, 35 of them not in the “family friendly” Cedars but in ordinary immigration removal centres such as Tinsley House, near Gatwick”

    Also see the governments own date
    http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmipris/immigration-removal-centre-inspections/cedars/cedars-2012.pdf

    Which makes for an interesting read.
    “The initial arrest, the point of removal and the use of force to effect removal were the main
    causes for concern. These were times of stress and upset for all family members and the
    behaviour of arrest teams was criticised. Although considerable efforts were made to avoid
    force at the point of removal, it had been used against six of the 39 families going through
    Cedars. We were very concerned to find that force had been used to effect the removal of a
    pregnant woman, using non-approved techniques. There is no safe way to do this while
    protecting the unborn child and it is simply not acceptable to initiate force for such purposes”

  • Stephen Tall 30th Oct '12 - 6:43pm

    @ matt – I’m guessing you didn’t actually read the jointly authored piece by Nick and Barbara which addressed the specific issue of Tinsley (and Diane Taylor’s Guardian piece you linked to) head on:

    Much of Taylor’s argument is predicated on the use of “ordinary immigration centres such as Tinsley House, near Gatwick”. Tinsley House is nothing of the sort. The newly refurbished facility is used for border cases. It has never been used as an “overflow facility” and never will be – not least because that is one of Barnardo’s red lines.

    The fact is we have always made clear that it would still be necessary to hold some families at the border who have been refused entry. Otherwise, we would simply have no border controls for anyone with children. In these cases, every effort is made to put the family on the very next flight available. Sometimes, however, there is a short delay, and they are transferred to more family friendly facilities at Tinsley House before their flight.

  • @stephen Tall

    I did indeed read the article, I have also read the articles that I quoted which totally contradicts Nick and Barbara piece.

    I also read that in the first 6 months of this year 107 children were detained, 35 of them not in the “family friendly” Cedars

    Bernardo’s is only contracted with Cedars and none of the other detention centres.

    I also read with distress from the governments own publication, how a pregnant woman was tipped out of a wheel chair with force using non-approved techniques.

    And surely, regardless of whether a child is being held in detention, it matters not whether the child in question was being detained on the way into the country or the way out.
    The fact remains that Liberal Democrats make the claim that they have “ended” child detention for immigration purposes and this claim is at best misleading and at worse totally false.

    And just for the record, I don’t believe changing the name to “family friendly departure unit” really cut’s it.

    Just because the “facility” contains “apartments” for families does not change the fact that it is still detention.

    I do believe such a thing as exists called low security prisons, where prisoners are housed in Nicer looking apartments compared to the more conventional “prison cell” however the perimeter is still surrounded by High walls and Barbed Fences.

    Nobody is saying there has not been “some” improvements to what we had under Labour, but does it really serve the purpose to stretch the truth and mislead? that certainly is not being open and transparent and cleaning up politics IMO

  • “The fact is we have always made clear that it would still be necessary to hold some families at the border who have been refused entry.”

    Not in our 2010 manifesto. It was without qualification.

  • I know little about this subject but find it difficult to understand the position of Hywel, Matt etc. Are they saying that if someone who is detected as attempting to enter the UK illegally is accompanied by a child they must be permitted simply to disappear into the community while arrangements are being made to deport them? Or are they saying that any group with children arriving here should be regarded as “legal” and automatically permitted entry with no rules applied at all?

    .

  • @Denis

    I am glad you actually asked that question Denis.

    Actually I am not making any suggestions at all or arguing for any alternatives.

    In fact, I am not entirely sure where I stand on the issue.

    The Issue that I am making is with the claim itself constantly being made by the party. “we have ended child detention”

    The claim is totally misleading. Child detention has not ended, it is still ongoing, regardless of whether there has been “some” improvements with “some” detention centres.

    We were promised more open, honest and transparent politics an for that to be true, parties of all hues need to stop these blatant misleading statements.

    I am sure most people like myself are fed up with parties making bold statements with false claims.

    Yes it is good to trumpet successes, but “any” positive good, falls to the gutter when it is grossly exaggerated,

  • ” know little about this subject but find it difficult to understand the position of Hywel, Matt etc. Are they saying that if someone who is detected as attempting to enter the UK illegally is accompanied by a child they must be permitted simply to disappear into the community while arrangements are being made to deport them?”

    Quite the opposite – that occasionally it is necessary to detain and remove people by force as part of immigration enforcement. That was a view I’ve had going back before 2010. The set up we hav e now is monumentally better than it was under Labour – but continually saying we’ve “ended child detention” when we haven’t doesn’t help us make that case.

    It’s slightly wearing when Labour trolls continually harp on about that aspect when I’m struggling to find any evidence of Labour figures apologising for their terrible record up to 2010.

  • Thank you Matt and Hywel. I now understand your position. I suppose we are really down to terminology and – rather like tuition fees – the need to avoid giving *pledges” that sound black and white when (as in so much of liberalism and indeed life) only shades of grey are available in the real world.

    Can we not now concentrate on emphasising that the measures taken are the best we can possibly achieve – or if not then put forward ideas for further improvement?

  • @Denis

    I think it comes down to a bit more than terminology to be fair.

    Liberal Democrats needs to learn mistakes from the past and stop issuing these bold statements which are highly exaggerated and in the end makes the party look weak.

    It’s a bit like the “control order” fiasco. Which we don’t seem to hear any more about from the party, because it did rather make the Libdems look silly by constantly claiming to have put an end to them, when in reality, they were just re-branded into T-Pims with slightly lesser curfew times.
    The party is making the same mistakes all over again with the claims to have ended child detention.

    With regards to the actual detention of children, I do believe 72hrs to a week is to long.

    Child detention is supposed to be the final phase after the family has exhausted all resources with regards to appeals and what not .
    I therefore fail to see why there would be need to detain a family for this period of time.

    Once the home office has won all the appeal stages, paper work can be completed and flights arranged behind the scenes.
    Once the home office has this all in place, the family could then be detained 24 hours before the scheduled departure, and then only in exceptional circumstances, i.e health and fit to fly should a family be detained any longer than this.

    If a situation arose where the parents did need to be detained for a longer period of time, then I fail to see why the children can not be placed in temporary foster care with someone from their own background. i.e Pakistan, Afghanistan, so the child is is able to comforted by someone without language barrier or culture.

    I am sure there are many temporary foster parents out their from all ethnic communities who would be more than happy to provide this kind of temporary support. The child could still have visitation rights with his/her parents whilst they are in detention. But like i said previously, this should only be for a short period of time and only in exceptional circumstances where a parent has been deemed unfit to fly.

  • From the website Fact Check
    http://fullfact.org/factchecks/has_coalition_ended_child_detention_immigration_centres-28570
    Conclusion
    The Coalition Government has not ended the detention of children

    “There is reasonable evidence to suggest child detention now is significantly different to that under the last administration. The figures do show a marked reduction in the number of children entering detention and HMIP is mainly positive about the ‘family friendly’ nature of the new Cedars pre-departure accommodation.
    That said, a number of children are still being held in Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre, which as yet lacks a stamp of approval from HMIP, and indeed the Inspectorate finds its new role sits uneasily with the Coalition’s commitment.”

    with regards to Tinsley House, the governments own report states
    http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmipris/immigration-removal-centre-inspections/tinsley-house/tinsley-house-report2011.pdf

    “Tinsley House immigration removal centre (IRC) at Gatwick airport, run by G4S, holds men,
    women and children”
    “The family unit was in the process of refurbishment and was designed to house up to eight
    families with children. These plans to hold children in the IRC sit uneasily with the
    government’s stated commitment to end child detention for immigration purposes.”

    “Most detainees reported that they were treated well under escort. However, the
    detainee welfare record was often not completed accurately or completed at all by
    escort staff. Records indicated some long journeys with no comfort breaks. A
    significant number of detainees were moved to the centre in the middle of the night,
    which was disorientating and exhausting. Despite apparent risk assessment, nearly
    all detainees were handcuffed for external appointments. In an observed overseas
    removal, fully compliant detainees were unnecessarily handled on to the coach by
    overseas escort staff when there were no identified risks and they were boarding in a
    secure area. Detainees were being told they were to be removed when they were in
    fact being taken to the airport as ‘reserves’ to fill possible spaces on charter flights. “

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Nov '12 - 7:58pm

    A classic Cleggism in that Guardian article :-

    “We have ended child detention as it existed under Labour and as we said we would in opposition.”

    Can anybody direct me to a quote from a senior Lib Dem in opposition who promised merely that Lib Dems would end child detention “as it exists under Labour”? Believe me, I’ve looked, but can find nothing.

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