Barnardo's gives ultimatum to Coalition over asylum-seeker deal


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Indy Politics

The charity Barnardo's has threatened to pull out of a deal to help operate a "family-friendly" detention centre for failed asylum-seekers, due to open this month, if the Government continues to break its promises on locking up children.

Campaigners say the new centre, at Pease Pottage in West Sussex, is an alternative form of confinement. It will be run by the security company G4S and be surrounded by a perimeter wall. Supporters counter that its regime – which includes play schedules for children, counselling and religious ceremonies – is a vast improvement on previous such centres.

Barnardo's decison to co-operate in running welfare services has been widely attacked by immigration and asylum charities, which fear its involvement would make it harder for the charity to hold the Government to account.

Last night, Barnado's set down a series of "red lines" that would limit its involvement in the pre-departure accommodation. It told The Independent it would abandon its support if:

* any serious concerns about the behaviour of staff are not investigated and tackled. It will also investigate the treatment of children being transported to and from the centre;

* families are held in the centre more than once – or for longer than one week;

* families are transferred to Tinsley House, the immigration detention centre next to Gatwick Airport, because the new centre is full.

The charity's chief executive, Anne Marie Carrie, said: "We see an important part of our role as shedding light on the whole immigration process to ensure it supports those children within it. We are absolutely clear that if policy and practice fall short of safeguarding the welfare, dignity and respect of families, then Barnardo's will raise concerns, will speak out and ultimately, if we have to, we will withdraw our services."