Children’s safety is being put at risk by the Government which is imprisoning them alongside adults, often unlawfully, the Refugee Council has revealed.
Between 2010 and 2014 the charity secured the release of over 120 unaccompanied children from Britain’s murky immigration detention estate.
So far in 2015, the Refugee Council has secured the release of 17 young people but we suspect there will be even more children behind bars who we never hear about.
These children have all wrongly been classed as adults by either immigration officials or social services; the very people who should be protecting them.
In 2010, the Government pledged to end the detention of children for immigration purposes, following mounting evidence that immigration detention causes children serious psychological harm. However, there are few safeguards in place to protect children whose ages are disputed by immigration officials.
At the moment, immigration officials are free to detain people based on their own instincts, and they do not have to refer people claiming to be a child for a thorough, expert-led age assessment. This leaves too many vulnerable children having their safety put at risk.
The Refugee Council is calling for immediate changes to the process to ensure that every young person who claims to be a child has a timely, sensitive and lawful age assessment carried out by experienced social workers.
Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: “Unaccompanied children are among the most vulnerable children in Britain. They have often witnessed horrors most grown ups would struggle to imagine and they arrive here all alone and extremely traumatised.
“These are children who desperately need our protection, yet their safety is being unacceptably jeopardised by the authorities. It’s clear that the stakes are far, far too high for children to be arbitrarily thrown behind bars with adults on the basis of guesswork.
“The Government must immediately take steps to ensure that its immigration policies don’t put children at further risk: children’s safety must always come first.”