Failed asylum seekers' kids “should not be detained”
Mon Apr 27, 2009 2:05pm BST
LONDON (Reuters) – The children of failed asylum seekers should not be arrested and detained before deportation, the Children's Commissioner for England said on Monday.
Sir Al Aynsley-Green also criticised the conditions at the Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, with children describing conditions there as like being in prison.
“We are particularly concerned at what appear at times to be significant discrepancies between policy guidance and what happens in practice to children, young people and families during arrest, transportation and detention,” he said.
Every year almost 2,000 children and young people are detained .
Aynsley-Green said the process of arrest and transporting children to Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire was the biggest complaint.
They told the commissioner the experience was “upsetting and frightening,” and were worried about what was happening to their belongings, friends and pets.
He said ending detention could not end overnight but made 42 recommendations on improving conditions at Yarl's Wood, and said babies and those with serious physical or mental health needs should never be locked up.
He called for community-based alternatives instead.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the government did not accept the commissioner's conclusions.
“Holding children in asylum centres is very difficult: we only do it as a last resort,” he told BBC radio.
“This country comes under criticism mainly for being too humane towards asylum seekers not the other way round.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)