Immigration agency breaks Clegg's pledge by detaining child

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has apologised for holding an 11-year-old girl in an immigration removal centre on Christmas Day in defiance of a pledge by the Coalition Government to end such cases. The child was detained overnight with her mother and adult sister at Tinsley House near Gatwick Airport after being refused admission to Britain. They were deported on Boxing Day.

The incident, disclosed to The Independent, has infuriated ministers because they had promised to end child detention for immigration purposes by Christmas. On 7 January, Nick Clegg said in a speech: "We made sure that, by our first Christmas in office, not a single innocent child was under lock and key. In Labour's last year alone over 1,000 innocent children were locked up for immigration purposes. We have drawn a line under that scandal."

Attacking the previous Government's record on civil liberties, he said Labour had made Britain "a place where young, innocent children caught up in the immigration system were placed behind bars".

The Deputy Prime Minister's statement had been approved in advance by UKBA. But he has now been told the agency was wrong to do so because of the case at Gatwick, which came to light at the end of last month when its statistics were "reconciled".

Jonathan Sedgwick, UKBA's acting chief executive, has told Mr Clegg in a letter: "UK Border Agency officials had cleared this [statement] beforehand without being aware of the discrepancy. I apologise for this error."

A source close to Mr Clegg said last night: "Nick was absolutely furious when he found out about this. I'm sure this was an honest mistake but if the public are to have confidence in our new system, then we have to get these things exactly right. The commitment to ending child detention is one that Liberal Democrats are rightly proud of."

A Government source confirmed: "A family with one child was intercepted at Gatwick Airport on 25 December and refused entry. In accordance with the published policy for border cases, the family was admitted to Tinsley House overnight while return flights were arranged for the following day. The family was held for less than 24 hours. UKBA has apologised for this error and revised our procedures to ensure this does not occur again and to ensure that border cases are clearly flagged."

The Government has not disclosed the family's nationality. No ministerial authorisation was given to hold the mother and her two daughters. Ministers have made a distinction between holding children in detention centres such Yarl's Wood, Bedfordshire, and border cases. Yarl's Wood was closed to families with children on 16 December, and no children were held or admitted to the centre on Christmas Day.

UKBA was set up after Lord (John) Reid, the then Home Secretary, described the Home Office as "not fit for purpose" in 2006 after a row over the release of foreign prisoners.

The latest incident was revealed amid heated discussions between Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers over whether prisoners should be given the vote in general elections, in line with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Government has proposed allowing inmates serving sentences of up to four years to vote but that is likely to be defeated in the Commons next week. Tory MPs, who oppose the move, have been given a free vote.

Yesterday Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, upset some Tories by saying the Government had to comply with the ruling. He said: "I hope it will take on board that we do have the rule of law here... Nobody wants to give large numbers of prisoners the vote so we will do the minimum necessary to avoid further chaos."

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

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

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Administrator - London - £26,000

£26000 per annum + 25 days holiday & further benefits: Ashdown Group: Telecomm...

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Senior Data Analyst - London - £38,000

£30000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Data Analyst - Lon...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London