Layla Moran writes… Child Detention still happens: Boy held at Campsfield for ‘2-3 months’

It is my belief that in a civilized society we should protect children. That they should not be punished for the actions of their parents or grandparents and that they should be given every chance of leading a fulfilled, healthy and normal childhood. And they most certainly should not be locked up without cause because of their family’s decision either.

Celebrating the end of child detention with Citizens UK #LDConf
Photo: Helen Duffett on Flickr.

Sadly for many years, this was not only true but also prevalent. Children who were here illegally were held in immigration deportation centres for months and sometimes years, were not allowed to go to school, not allowed to develop. A child does not, in full understanding of the consequences, make the decision to enter a country illegally. It would have been the decision of their family in whatever form that may take; yet until 2011 they were punished as equals to these adults.

This was why in 2010 I was proud that the Liberal Democrats ensured ending child detention for immigration purposes was in the coalition agreement, in the 2010 Queen’s Speech and again, in 2011, a new family friendly centre (Cedars House) opened and we were assured that this should not happen anymore – including great fanfare at our last Autumn Conference.

Families with children are no longer detained in Immigration Removal Centres before removal from the UK, although they may be held for up to a week in secure “pre-departure accommodation” instead.
(Ending child immigration detention – Commons Library Standard Note, Jan 2013).

There were caveats to this. In exceptional circumstances some families and unaccompanied children can still be held in near-port holding facilities but this was to be used sparingly ‘a few dozen families each year, usually for less than 24 hours’.

In the light of what went before this was a marked improvement indeed. Except that numbers do not lie.

According to Home Office statistics, 37 children entered detention and 38 left.

‘Of those leaving detention, 34 had been detained for less than three days, three for between four and seven days and one had been detained, in Campsfield House, for between two and three months’.
(Immigration Statistics January – March 2013, Home Office)

Forgive me, but I ask you to re-read the last sentence. For between two and three months. Campsfield is in Kidlington, right here in the Lib Dem target constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon. This boy (Campsfield is male-only) will have been the only child (or at least we hope the only child) in an adult-dominated, guarded facility, with barbed wire fences. He would not have been allowed to go to school nor interact with other children, nor lead any sort of normal childhood. We know very little about him other than he would have been between 12 and 16.

The Home Office is letting the country down by allowing such a case to happen at all — let alone the other detained children who had to endure days locked away from the world. I would find this traumatic as an adult, let alone as a child.

While one catastrophic failure does not undo the fact that progress has been made, and I remain proud that it was our party that pushed for it to happen at all, I believe that we should remain vigilant and hold our politicians to account for their promises. In this case, one is still one too many.

I have written to Theresa May to ask if there are any other children in Campsfield now, and what assurances she can give that such a case will not happen again anywhere else on the country. I have yet to hear back. Nick Clegg’s office also say they are looking for answers.

All party members who are as shocked as I am that this is still happening should write to the Home Office if you agree with me, to hold the Government firmly to account. They must understand that even under exceptional circumstances, holding a child in detention for that length of time is a scar on our society too great to ignore.

* Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon

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9 Comments

  • Liberal Neil 1st Jul '13 - 9:20am

    Does that second sentence need a ‘not’ adding?

  • Liberal Neil 1st Jul '13 - 1:25pm

    Good article now 🙂

  • Daniel Henry 1st Jul '13 - 6:16pm

    It’s good to see that we’ve reduced it to such a small handful of cases, but it’s important that we remain vigilant and ensure that no one falls through the cracks. This poor lad shows signs of landing on the wrong side of a bureacratic system and being forgotten about.

    Glad to see you on the case.
    You’ll make a great MP!

  • Geoffrey – the important thing is to get the facts, which is what the panel will be doing, and then making recommendations as to just what is going to be done to make sure such is not happening.
    I am determined that detention centres for children will have actually ended.
    another big issue of course is the ending of indefinite detention for immigration purposes of adults. another campaign!

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