Esmé Madill: End the inhumanity of child detention

We detain 2,000 ayslum-seeking children each year in awful conditions

Share
Related Topics

While Ali waited for the van to take him to join his parents in Yarl's Wood Detention Centre, my daughters helped me pack a bag of toys for his long journey. He was desperate for his mum. He's two years old. He stopped crying only when he slept. My girls kept asking why I couldn't stop him going to prison.

Our government detains 2,000 asylum-seeking children every year in conditions known to harm their mental and physical health. The Children's Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, has urged the authorities to stop. Doctors reporting in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect say children in detention suffer from confusion, fear, sleep problems, headaches, abdominal pain, severe emotional and behavioural problems. They found one 20-month breastfeeding baby in Yarl's Wood who had been separated from her mother for three weeks. Stress caused older children to wet their beds and soil their pants.

"Treating children with care and compassion is a priority", said David Wood of the Government's Border Agency, dismissing the doctors' research as "limited" and "three years old". Ali's adventure suggests the doctors' research is bang up to date. He got out in July after more than three weeks refusing food and losing weight, clinging to his mum, terrified by the screams of families being dragged off to Heathrow.

Eighteen months after release, one four-year-old turns rigid if she sees someone in uniform. It takes her back to the dawn raid, the long drive to Yarl's Wood where her chronic health problems spiralled out of control and she spent weeks crying and begging to go home. Like Ali, she has been granted asylum. There was never any need or reason to detain them.

Why does our government persist in locking children up? Families with children are extremely unlikely to abscond. Other countries have more humane arrangements, allowing families to stay together in the community while their cases are decided or, in the case of failed asylum seekers, before their return. Here, these families are hidden – in detention centres, behind barbed wire, out of sight. The dawn raid, the sudden van journey with total strangers, men in uniform, no time to pack toys or books, call friends or tell their teachers they won't be on that school trip, it's all hard to believe.

With friends I've started the campaign, End Child Detention Now. Two MPs, Chris Mullin and Peter Bottomley, have tabled an Early Day Motion calling upon the Government to stop detaining asylum seeking children. Since last Monday, 39 MPs have signed it.

We've set up a petition at petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoChildDetention. Hundreds of people have signed it already, including Emma Thompson, Kamila Shamsie and Colin and Livia Firth. Bishops have volunteered to ask questions in the Lords to keep up the pressure on the Government. We won't stop until child detention stops. No child should be locked up for seeking sanctuary: not your child, or anyone else's.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week