The Children's Society hits out at child detention

Hundreds of children are being detained at the UK's ports and airports, figures showed today.

A total of 697 children under 18 were held for up to 24 hours at the Port of Dover and at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted in the four months between May and August.

The Children's Society, which obtained the details under the Freedom of Information Act, said the figures raised serious questions about the Government's commitment to end the immigration detention of children.

Of those children detained, one in three was unaccompanied, the figures showed.

Bob Reitemeier, the charity's chief executive, said: "We are horrified at the excessive numbers of children being held in the South East and very disappointed that Government has not kept these numbers to a minimum.

"It is of great concern that this appears to be happening without sufficient monitoring centrally by the Home Office, including why they are being held, their age and critically the length of time that they were held.

"This raises serious questions about the commitment to end the immigration detention of children."

He urged the Home Office to launch an investigation into "why excessive numbers of children are being held on entry to the UK".

The Home Office should also "make sure appropriate measures are in place to meet the welfare needs of what are often extremely vulnerable children", he added.

A UK Border Agency (UKBA) spokesman said: "We have always been clear that we would retain the ability to hold families who have arrived at the border without the right to enter the UK.

"Where it is considered in the family's best interests not to stay at the airport until the next flight, the UK Border Agency will make arrangements for them to stay at Tinsley House."

A report in April by the independent monitoring board (IMB) at Heathrow Airport warned that children were still being held overnight in "degrading" and "wholly unsuitable" conditions.

They were among more than 15,000 people who were detained by immigration officials at Britain's biggest airport last year in rooms with no natural light, poor ventilation and inadequate washing facilities.

The lack of progress since the "degrading" conditions were highlighted last year was "unacceptable on grounds of humanity", the watchdog said.

"The UK Border Agency has again failed in its duty to treat everyone in its care in Heathrow holding rooms with decency," the report said.

"In our last report we drew attention to the wholly unsuitable conditions in which men, women and children were held.

"There has been no change: they are still held in these conditions and still for too long. Lack of change is unacceptable on grounds of humanity.

"We are opposed to the continued detention of families for immigration purposes at Heathrow."

It called for Home Secretary Theresa May to review urgently the UKBA's powers for improving the accommodation and to give priority to the provision of a short-term holding facility offering overnight accommodation at, or near, the airport.

David Wood, the UKBA's strategic director for criminality and detention, said at the time that the welfare of children was "an absolute priority".

But he added that families with children may be held on arrival in the UK "while checks are made to determine whether they should be admitted to the country and, if not, until a return flight can be arranged for them".

Last month, ministers welcomed the "final stage in the Government's pledge to end the detention of children" as new pre-departure accommodation for families being removed from the UK was opened.

Barnardo's provides help and support to the families while they are being held in the new Cedars centre in Pease Pottage, West Sussex, for up to a week before being removed.

The children's charity has also laid down a series of rules for the Government to follow to ensure it keeps the charity's support in removing children of failed asylum seekers from the UK.

But critics have accused Barnardo's of "legitimising detention".

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?