Wednesday, 17 February 2010

No Place for a Child

There’s been a lot of coverage of the report of the Children’s Commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley Green, into conditions at Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Although he says that conditions have improved since his last report, he maintains that Yarl’s Wood is “no place for a child”.

About 1,000 children a year are detained for immigration reasons. Various groups from the Children’s Society, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee have highlighted evidence that detention is detrimental to a child’s psychiatric and developmental well being.

The Children’s Commissioner reports examples of children who start wetting the bed, children who become withdrawn and start eating and sleeping poorly, and even children who allegedly start self-harming. Children are separated from their parents when they are taken into detention, and although they are later reunited, this is clearly deeply traumatic for both parents and children.

This report came out the same day as another highlighting the crucial impact of the early months and years in a child’s life on their future development.

Before Christmas, Baptists, Methodists and United Reformed Church members sent thousands of cards to Phil Woolas MP, the immigration minister, wishing him a happy Christmas and calling on him to end the detention of children.

If you received Mr Woolas’s reply, it might have sounded as if all was well. This latest report into Yarl’s Wood shows that although conditions inside detention centres may be marginally improved, detention itself still has a dramatic and damaging impact on children. The Joint Public Issues Team will continue to work with others for an end to the detention of children for immigration reasons. Find further information here.

((Photo by StephenMitchell, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license))