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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links