Commenting on Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) Report on Oakington Immigration Reception Centre, published today, Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“Detaining children for uncertain periods is potentially damaging to their well-being, as the Chief Inspector of Prisons points out.
“A child’s concept of time is very different from an adult’s, and a week will seem very much longer to a child. Therefore, detaining children for a week, or in some cases far longer, can have an adverse impact on them, and be harmful to their development.
“We believe that it is not appropriate to detain children, but should the Home Office do so, they must follow all precautions to safeguard that child’s health and well-being.”
Oakington Reception centre is used for families whose asylum applications are being fast-tracked; whilst the Home Office refers to it as a reception centre, people are nonetheless held there under detention powers.
Children of asylum-seeking families can be detained, subject to the detention of one or both of their parents, and be held indefinitely in a ‘removal centre’ (named ‘detention centre’ until 2002). Dungavel, Oakington and Tinsley House currently have facilities to detain families. This practice is likely to increase with Yarls Wood re-opening to accommodate families in 2005.