Two years after the coalition government declared they would end the detention of children for immigration purposes, the Refugee Council today reveals that there are still significant numbers of child refugees being locked up by the UK Border Agency in detention centres across the UK.
The charity’s report, Not a minor offence, focuses on children they are working with who have arrived in the UK on their own, but who are not believed to be the age they say they are by social workers or immigration officials. They are then wrongly treated as adults in the asylum system, meaning they face being detained with other adults, and being removed to their own country, in breach of child protection laws.
The Refugee Council works with children who are wrongly being treated as adults to secure their release from immigration detention. New figures* published today show that:
- in the first three months of this year, six were released from detention after being found to be children, four cases are outstanding.
- in 2011, 22 were released from detention after being found to be children
- in 2010, 26 were released from detention after being found to be children
The Refugee Council is calling on the government to end the detention of children once and for all, by ensuring safeguards are put in place to prevent unaccompanied children from being detained.
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council says:
It is a scandal that two years after the government agreed to end the detention of children because of its harmful effects, they still believe it is acceptable to lock up children who have come here on their own.
“These are children who have fled horrifying situations in their own countries, and have made traumatic journeys to reach safety here. They are then met with disbelief by the people who are supposed to help them, and locked up with other adults in detention centres. The UK would never treat a British child in this way. We have an obligation to protect these children, so it is imperative that they are not held in detention and that they are given the benefit of the doubt.”
The Refugee Council report details the experiences of young people who have had their ages disputed and subsequently been detained, explains the age assessment process, and gives policy recommendations for ensuring unaccompanied children are not detained.
The Refugee Council is also today launching the launching an animation that tells the story of one of the young people who was released from detention as a child. This is part of a year of events to mark the 18th birthday of the Refugee Council’s Children’s Section. Since 1994 the charity has worked over 18,000 children to support them through the asylum system and help them rebuild their lives here.
See the full report: Not a minor offence: unaccompanied children locked up as part of the asylum system. [PDF]