Bishop welcomes end to detention of children in immigration centres

The Bishop of Woolwich has welcomed the Government’s decision to end the practice of detaining the children of asylum seekers in immigration detention centres.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced today that the Government would end the “shameful practice” of locking up children in detention centres by May 11.

He also gave assurances that no child would be held in an immigration centre over Christmas.

Last year, around 1,000 children were held in detention centres across the UK, such as the one at Yarl’s Wood.

Bishop Christopher Chessun condemned the “unacceptable practice” of detaining the children of asylum seekers.

“The value and potential of many children has been denied through the procedures of taking families in dawn raids and detaining them in removal centres,” he said.

“The children of asylum seekers are a vulnerable group, and must not be made more so by procedures which have no regard for their mental health and wellbeing.”

The Government is planning to transfer children in detention centres to temporary supervised accommodation at Tinsley House.

The bishop echoed the concerns of some children’s charities that conditions at the facility would not so different from the detention centres.

He called for independent monitors to assess Tinsley House in order to make sure that the facilities there “do not become an extension of the Yarl’s Wood regime”.

The bishop welcomed the decision to use an independent family review panel to resolve cases but also called for “fairness” in the process of deciding which families could remain in the country.

He said applicants were entitled to legal aid and urged support for children “traumatised” by the experience of detention.

He said: “The treatment of families in all stages of the asylum process remains a concern. Good asylum policy is best served by the quality of initial decisions not by appeals and the protracted procedures that can lead to forced removals.”