As a Volunteer Adviser for the Refugee Council in age disputes I
have met numerous children in detention centres. In my experience the children I have met are invariably frightened, separated and isolated from the family and friends in a foreign land. These children often speak little or no English and are held with adults far older than themselves adding to their isolation.
The boredom the children feel at the repetitiveness of the days and weeks spent in detention is clear. The prison-like environment is not one which is conducive for learning. A lot of time seems to be spent worrying about their situation. The first child I went to see had been living in foster care in the UK and had no idea why he had been detained, or what was going to happen next.
What stayed with me after I left my first visit to a detention centre was the uncertainty of this child’s situation. I was shocked to discover that, unlike a set prison sentence, there is no limit on how long someone can be detained. I have since discovered that one man was held for over five years.