‘Today marks a big culture shift within our immigration system,’ said Nick Clegg two weeks ago, announcing plans purporting to end child detention. ‘That practice, the practice we inherited, ends here,’ he said.
Sadly, it didn’t end there.
Liberal Democrats interested in these matters might take a look at two dossiers of evidence compiled by End Child Detention Now and published on openDemocracy.
Mind the Gap! Coalition claims and realities for child detention in the UK tests the new ‘compassionate approach to family returns’ as expressed in government documents released on December 16
Drawing on evidence elsewhere, for instance an HMIP report on multiple, shocking failures at the G4S-run immigration removal centre Tinsley House, we seek to illuminate the ‘new approach’ that will see children and their parents until at least May this year locked up at . . . Tinsley House.
We urge relentless scrutiny and pressure to ensure that child detention really ends and is not simply rebranded, relentless scrutiny and pressure to effect a real and much-needed ‘big culture shift’ at the Home Office.
Many Liberal Democrats are well aware of asylum policy’s fundamental flaw: the automatic disbelief that too often greets asylum seekers from their first moment of arrival, compounded by the shrinking availability of legal advice that might protect them (and the system) from sloppy decision-making. (Channel 4 Dispatches provided startling proof of that in November).
In Five years of denial: the UK government’s reckless pursuit of a punitive asylum policy — never mind the evidence of harm, we gather, for the first time in one place, much of the published evidence of the damage done by detention, evidence that senior civil servants have denied, misrepresented and buried over the years.
Some of those civil servants are still in post, framing the new ‘compassionate’ approach.
Nick Clegg was right to credit Liberal Democrats with fighting long and hard to end child detention. But it hasn’t ended yet. Please, keep on fighting, and mind the gap between Home Office assertion and reality.
Clare Sambrook is one of six friends running the unfunded citizens’ campaign End Child Detention Now. She won both the 2010 Paul Foot Award and the Bevins Prize for stories exposing government misrepresentations about the child detention policy.
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