Revealed: how asylum detention centres damage children

The traumatic toll of detention on the children of asylum seekers will be exposed in a new report.

"State Sponsored Cruelty", due to be published by Medical Justice in September, found that two-thirds of children became ill or were hurt after being held in detention centres. They include a three-year-old girl who broke her shoulder falling down stairs.

Pressure was building yesterday on the Government to honour a promise made in the Queen's Speech in May to act quickly to outlaw the detention of young asylum seekers, a practice Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has described as a "moral outrage".

This year, 50 women at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre, Bedfordshire, went on hunger strike over conditions. A scathing report by Dame Anne Owers published in March confirmed the findings of a similar investigation by the Children's Commissioner which said Yarl's Wood had been "distressing and harmful" for children. Last night, Medical Justice reiterated a call by the Scottish Refugee Council for the Government to immediately ban the detention of children of failed asylum seekers rather than wait for the outcome of a Home Office Review.

"Powers still exist to arrest and forcibly remove children from the UK by harmful means, including separating and detaining one parent, detaining a single parent and putting the child "in care", and forcibly removing one family member from the UK without the others," it said. "We need policy and legislation change that eliminates all forms of family detention and separation and related harmful practices."

Spokeswoman Emma Ginn added: "Our fear is that they will never end detention of children. To say they will only detain children for a short period is the same as what we had before."

In the first large-scale investigation in the UK, Medical Justice gathered the evidence of independent doctors who assessed 141 children detained between 2004 and April 2010.

It found that 92 had suffered physical harm, often developing fevers and vomiting, while 50 children received inadequate medical care. More than half, 74, had been psychologically harmed and went on to suffer nightmares, insomnia or became deeply fearful of being locked up again. Almost 50 had witnessed violence in detention while 13 had been injured, notably several children hurt during the break-up of a hunger strike at Yarl's Wood.

Last year 1,065 children were held with their families awaiting removal. While there are currently no children in detention, the UK Border Agency would only say "detention of families will be kept to a minimum until the review is completed". After taking office, the coalition Government pledged to end the practice of locking up failed asylum families with children. Last month the Prime Minister promised to end the practice "once and for all".

A Home Office review is looking at alternatives, including housing children in care, but yesterday Clare Tudor of the Scottish Refugee Council said it wanted "a commitment set in law that would disallow the Government at any time in the future to detain children".

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "The Government is clear in its commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes. One of the first actions was to set up a review and this has changed the UK Border Agency's approach. We are focused on finding an alternative that protects the welfare of children, without undermining immigration laws."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency is looking ...

Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company has been manufacturing high quali...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is the fairest onl...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen