More than 600 children, the majority under 12 years old, have been put in detention under immigration rules in the four years since the Government claimed to have ended the controversial practice.
A new analysis of Home Office statistics by The Independent also reveals that the number of children being held increased from 127 in 2011 to 228 in 2013 – an 80 per cent rise. This is despite Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stating in December 2010: “We are ending the shameful practice that last year alone saw over 1,000 children – 1,000 innocent children – imprisoned.”
At the time he promised child detention would be stopped except as an “absolutely last resort, involving what we predict will be a tiny number of cases... immediately prior to [the children] leaving the country.”
But since he made that pledge, official figures indicate that 661 under-18s – most of them from families seeking asylum – have been detained.
Around half end up being allowed to stay in Britain rather than being deported. In some cases children have remained in detention for weeks before being released.
Simon Parker, of the End Child Detention Now campaign group, said: “Although the numbers of children being detained are considerably lower than under the previous government, what Nick Clegg called ‘state-sponsored cruelty’ is still happening to hundreds of vulnerable children. It is time that we ended this unnecessary and harmful practice once and for all.”
10 things immigration has done for Britain
10 things immigration has done for Britain
1/10 The Mini
The 1959 classic, that is, perhaps our greatest piece of industrial design, a miracle of packaging and revolution in motoring. Its genius designer was Sir Alec Issigonis, who was an asylum seeker. His family, Greek, fled Smyrna when Turks invaded this borderland in around 1920, and he wound up studying engineering at Battersea Polytechnic. He went on to create that most English of motor cars, the Morris Minor, as well as the Austin-Morris 1100, all much loved products of his fertile imagination.
2/10 Marks and Spencer
Once upon a time there was no M&S in Britain, difficult as that may be to believe. We have one Michael Marks to thank for our most famous retailer, and he was a refugee from Belarus, arriving in England in about 1882, and soon after set off to flog stuff around Yorkshire. He eventually teamed with Thomas Spencer to create the vast business we know today.
And many other TV shows created, funded and otherwise produced by that largest of larger-than-life characters, Lew Grade (also a world class tap dancer). The man who dominated commercial television gave us memorable entertainment such as The Prisoner, the Saint and brought the Muppets to Britain (a sort of fuzzy felt wave of immigration), as well as puppet shows where you could see the strings. All this from a penniless Jew from Ukraine, born Lev Winogradsky, who escaped the pogroms in Ukraine with his family in the 1890s. His nephew Michael Grade has also done his bit for British television.
4/10 The House of Windsor
Or the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until George V prudently rebranded the family during the First World War. Well, our royals are a pretty German bunch, as well as having various types of French and other alien blue blood coursing around their veins. ‘Twas ever thus. There was William the Conqueror, Norman French, who certainly broke the immigration rules; William of Orange, a direct import from Holland; the Hanoverian King Georges, the first barely able to speak English; Queen Victoria, who married a German, Edward VII, who couldn’t stay faithful to his wife, a Danish princess; George V wed another German princess; Edward VIII married an American (though she hardly visited England and prompted his emigration and exile); and the Queen is married to man born in Corfu. The embodiment of the British nation, to many, but one thinks of them as quite multicultural really.
5/10 I Vow To Thee My Country
Our most patriotic hymn was the product of a man named Gustav Holst (pictured), born in Cheltenham, but of varied Swedish, Latvian and German ancestry, who adapted part of his suite The Planets to put a particularly stirring and beautiful poem to music, just after the Great War. As the second verse has it, “there's another country/I've heard of long ago/Most dear to them that love her/most great to them that know”. Imagine if the Holst family had been kept out because the quota on musical European types had been reached.
6/10 Curry and Cobra
Chicken Tikka Masala is, so they say, a dish which not only the most popular in Britain but specifically designed to cater for European tastes. For that we probably have to thank an Indian migrant, Sake Dean Mahomed, who came from Bengal to open the first recognisable Indian restaurant, the magnificently named “Hindoostanee Coffee House”. History does not record if a plate of poppadoms and accompanying selection of pickles and yoghurts were routinely placed on the table for new diners, but we do know that we had to wait until 1989 to taste the ideal lager for a curry - Cobra. That brew was brought to us by Karan (now Lord) Bilimoria, a Cambridge law graduate who hailed from Hyderabad.
7/10 That big red swirly sculpture at the Olympic Park
Or Orbit, to give it its proper name, the work of Anish Kapoor, who arrived in 1973 from India and had the artistic imagination to fill a power station.
8/10 The Sun
Love it or hate it, and many do both, this has been a symbol of much that is successful and a lot that is awful in British journalism since its inception in 1969. In its turn it spawned the Page 3 Girl and some nastily xenophobic headlines. All the stranger when you consider its creator was, of course, Rupert Murdoch, born 11 March 1931 in Melbourne, Australia.
OK, Karl Marx’s philosophy was not much of a gift to the world, but for a while it seemed like a good idea. Though we might not dare admit it, Marxism still has a few insights to offer to anyone wanting to understand the workings of capitalism, though too few to excuse everything that was done in its name. Born in Germany spent much time in the British museum and the British pub, buried Highgate Cemetery. Oddly, his ideas never really caught on in his adopted homeland.
10/10 The NHS
They came from many, many backgrounds, including Ireland, the Philippines, east Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa, as they still do, but the contribution of the black nurses who came to the UK from the Caribbean to heal and care for is a debt of honour that must be recognised. It so sometimes forgotten that it was Enoch Powell, then Minister of Health (1960-62), who campaigned to recruit their skilled nurses to come and work over here. One abiding legacy we can thank Enoch for.
The plight of children in detention is part of a wider picture, with tens of thousands of people detained each year under immigration powers – despite not being charged with any criminal offence. The Independent revealed this week that 20 people have been held for at least two years in what campaigners have dubbed the “black hole at the heart of British justice”.
Wetting the bed, refusing to eat and having suicidal thoughts are among the signs of distress shown by children in detention, say campaigners. Many children are detained at “pre-departure accommodation” at Cedars, near Gatwick, which opened in 2011 and is the only detention centre in Britain designed for families with children.
But pre-departure accommodation centres “are ‘merely ‘detention by another name’,” said Theresa Schleicher, of the Medical Justice charity: “In 2013, HM Inspectorate of Prisons raised concerns about the level of distress of families passing through Cedars and we are concerned about the ongoing negative physical and emotional impact of such detention on children.”
Matthew Reed, the chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Detention can seriously harm their mental and physical health, even if they are held for a short time. Many have already been traumatised by such experiences as persecution or trafficking.”
However, a Home Office spokesman said: “We have always been clear that there are certain situations where we may be forced to detain families temporarily. These may include border turnaround cases, or cases involving unaccompanied children, until alternative accommodation is arranged.”
Detainee ‘sought help twice before he died’
A seriously ill detainee twice sought medical help for chest pains before he was seen by a nurse at a privately run immigration removal centre at Manchester airport where he died soon after, an inquest has heard.
Tahir Mehmood, 43, who had overstayed his work visa, was due to be deported to Pakistan in July 2013, where his wife and children lived.
He had been detained in Manchester before he was transferred to an immigration removal centre, run by Tascor, where he died six days later.
An inquest heard he twice asked for a nurse on 26 July 2013 while suffering chest pains. The inquest continues.