Image of a child behind a fence

Children’s organisations express concerns over Illegal Migration Act

Children’s organisations and charities led by Coram have written to the Home Secretary to express concern at plans in the Illegal Migration Act to reintroduce child detention, according to the Children’s Legal Centre.

These organisations have condemned the child detention provisions in the Act as “immoral” and in breach of international law.

The Act passed through the House of Commons earlier this year and has now reached the final stages and gained Royal Assent.

The new Act would allow the government to indefinitely detain all asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally, including children and potential victims of trafficking.

The coalition government committed to end child detention in 2010 and legislated against it in 2014. Now the Illegal Migration Act would bring back the power to detain children with families and bring in powers to detain unaccompanied children.

The legislation would also normalise children who arrive in the UK alone being accommodated directly by the Home Office.

Concern about child detention is part of wider opposition to the Illegal Migration Act, which would see anyone who comes to the UK without a visa locked out of getting protection as a refugee or victim of trafficking, according to Children’s Legal Centre.

Dr Carol Homden CBE, chief executive of the Coram group of children’s charities, which works with hundreds of refugee and trafficked children each year through therapeutic, advocacy and legal services, said:

“It is shocking that the government should seek to go back on such a high-profile commitment made to children especially at a time when the UN is examining the UK’s record on children’s rights. Reintroducing child detention is not a proud legacy for any government and we ask that this proposal is reconsidered to prevent there being undoubted harm to vulnerable children who need our protection.”

Kamena Dorling, co-chair of the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium, said:

“There is clear evidence showing the long-lasting damage that detention does to children. If this Bill passes as it is, we could see 8000 children being locked up each year – anywhere, with no limit and no safeguards.”

ADCS President John Pearce said:

“All children, irrespective of where they were born, have the right to a safe and supportive environment with access to the services they require. ADCS is clear that all new legislation must be child focussed and protect their rights, however, the Illegal Migration Bill will have a lasting and damaging effect on children in our care who are fleeing desperate situations. The legislation runs counter to a number of our fundamental responsibilities set out in the Children Act 1989 as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

ADCS remains deeply concerned about the Illegal Migration Bill’s impact on those children and young people who need our support the most. Not only is this entirely inconsistent with the government’s own vision for children in our care as set out in ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love’, it will irreversibly distort the care system and create an incentive for children to run away before they turn 18 to avoid being returned to their home country, therefore placing them in danger of being exploited. The care system is not, nor should it, a holding mechanism for the immigration system.”

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