LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: We put an end to child detention. Now the Tories have backtracked

Alistair Carmichael writes for STV News about the Tories sneaking out the announcement about the closure of the Cedars facility:

It is the oldest trick in the parliamentary book. Slip out all the bad news on the last day when MPs are already looking out the Ambre Solaire and the flip flops. By the time the Commons returns in September the moment for protest will have passed and the pressure will be off.

Thursday’s clutch brought the usual mix of the good, the bad and the indifferent. And one more — the shameful. Buried in amongst announcements about schools funding, Ecofin and Armed Forces Pay Review Body appointments, there is one entitled “Cedars pre-departure accommodation”. It is a cosy-sounding title that betrays its true nature.

Cedars was the accommodation set up under the coalition government when implementing the commitment in the coalition agreement to end the detention of children for immigration purposes. It meant that children in families awaiting removal from the UK would no longer have to spend time in lock-down institutions.

Why should we treat children of asylum seekers less well than we would want our own to be treated, he asks.

The reference to the best interests of the children is significant. It is the test that our courts apply to any case involving the welfare of our own children. The message of this decision is a difficult to mistake: Children in our immigration system are somehow less worthy of protection than our own.

I recall visiting the Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre in Lanarkshire about ten years ago and seeing the facilities for families there. The education and health facilities were of a good standard and the staff running them were obviously dedicated and professional.

For all that, however, it was still a lock-down institution with razor wire on top of high walls. It was not a place where we would place our own children and I was proud to be a minister in the government that ended the practice.

He notes how vulnerable the people accommodated at Cedars were and has a message for all of us – we should be out there protesting its closure.

Those accommodated had health issues, including women whose mental health issues were exacerbated by female genital mutilation (FGM), risks to their children and domestic violence.

The Shaw Report also noted that up to half of those accommodated in Cedars were released rather than removed.

So yes, the numbers accommodated were low and the cost was high. The cost to these vulnerable children of putting them back in a lock-down institution is more difficult to quantify. There may well be some better, more cost-efficient way of achieving the same end but working that out, it would appear, is not worth the trouble.

Visiting the sins of the parent onto the child belongs in the Old Testament. It is no way for a civilised, developed, Western country to treat some of the most vulnerable children and families in our care. I suspect that the closure of Cedars will not bring out the protesters in their droves onto our streets.

That is a shame. A shame on us all.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Stevan Rose 23rd Jul '16 - 7:08pm

    Before you judge, read the other half of the story: and go to section 4.94 onwards.

    And read the full Government announcement that Caron posted a link to earlier today. The Government appear to be building a new family facility with the assistance of Barnados according to their announcement and what is truly shameful and scandalous are the figures in the report. In the first 9 months of 2014/15, 14 families were accommodated for a maximum of 3 nights each at a pro-rata cost of £114,000 per family per night, or £342,000 per 3 night family stay. It is a secure facility anyway, with very discreet and heavily disguised measures so as not to alarm or distress, but secure nevertheless as these are families who have refused to leave voluntarily.

    The Government do not seem to be proposing a return to pre-Cedars accommodation in their announcement and the more productive approach would have been to ask the precise nature of the new facilities before jumping to unproven conclusions and trying to defend an indefensible situation. Dignity, respect, stress free, trauma free, all very important but all doable at a tiny fraction of the cost. Someone explain why £342,000 per family per 3 day stay is good value for everyone concerned.

  • If anybody knows about dirty tricks it is Alistair!

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