Home Office criticised for holding child asylum seekers in 'stuffy and overcrowded' conditions at Heathrow

 

Deputy Political Editor

Child asylum seekers are being held in “disgraceful” conditions at Heathrow Airport, where they are often forced to sleep overnight in cramped rooms, a report published today warns.

Four years ago the Coalition Agreement committed the Government to end the “detention of children for immigration purposes”.

But a strongly worded report from the Heathrow Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) condemned the Home Office over the treatment of immigrant youngsters at Britain’s largest airport. It said it had seen many cases where asylum seekers, including children, have been held for very long periods in the holding rooms.

The IMB said they continue to be locked up in “stuffy and overcrowded” rooms with no natural light, no access to the open air and very limited facilities for children.

Many are held for long periods, including overnight stays, or are shunted between removal centres so they only get a few hours in bed, which the IMB denounces as a “disgraceful way to treat children”. 

The IMB also raised “great concern” over the arrangements for deporting youngsters from Britain.

“In some cases children face a long and stressful journey to Heathrow, which may be overnight, before being removed on a long-haul flight,” it said.

The Home Office said it always aimed to ensure children spent the minimum time possible in Heathrow’s holding rooms.

A spokeswoman said: “Improvements to the holding rooms have now been agreed with the airport operator, including plans for a new larger holding room for Terminal Four. Work is underway and scheduled to be completed by April 2015.

“We are committed to ensuring those held in our detention facilities are treated with humanity and respect and we welcome the positive comments in this report highlighting how well our staff care for detainees.”

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