A new report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner reveals that one in six unaccompanied children were detained at the Kent Intake Unit for more than 24 hours between April and December 2020, rising to one in three children in August. One child was detained for 65 hours. The Immigration Act (2014) explicitly states that children must not be detained for more than 24 hours. Waiting times in the non-detained area also increased significantly, from a few hours in April-August to an average of 32 hours in November.
The Refugee Council manages the non-detained area for children, and wrote to Children’s Minister Vicky Ford last week to express concerns that the failure to reform the National Transfer Scheme was leading to unacceptable delays in children being placed in appropriate local authority care.
Enver Solomon, Chief Executive at the Refugee Council, said:
“We’re deeply alarmed that children were routinely being detained for more than 24 hours at the Kent Intake Unit last year. Children who travel to the UK seeking safety have endured horrific experiences both in their home country and during perilous journeys to the UK.
On arrival, it is not unusual for these children to present with physical injuries, hypothermia, dehydration and serious mental health needs. They should be treated with compassion, not subjected to prolonged detention while waiting to be taken into care. The welfare of the child must come first in every single case.
We fully support the Children’s Commissioner’s calls for expanded safe and legal routes to the UK for children, better monitoring of processes at the Kent Intake Unit, and immediate reform of the National Transfer Scheme.”