Child refugees still being locked up in UK

Monday 21st May
UK GOVERNMENT BREAKING OWN GUIDELINES ON CHILD REFUGEE DETENTION

CHILDREN STILL BEING LOCKED UP - TWO YEARS AFTER PLEDGE TO END PRACTICE

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie has accused the UK Government of breaking its own rules after it emerged that child refugees are still being locked up by the UK Border Agency – despite the Coalition pledging two years ago to bring an end to the practice.

A Refugee Council report found that children continued to be detained on the grounds that their age is in question. In some cases, children arriving in the UK unaccompanied are held for weeks before officials will accept that they are actually children. The report finds dozens of such cases over the last couple of years.

Home Office guidance explicitly states that, unless their demeanour and physical appearance strongly suggest that they are significantly over the age of 18, they “should be afforded the benefit of the doubt and treated as children…until a careful assessment of their age has been completed.”

Child refugees who are detained can be seriously damaged as a result, with some suffering from mental health difficulties, the report warned.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Christina McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, said:

“It is a disgrace that child refugees continue to be locked up by the UK Border Agency today – two years after the UK Government promised an end to this deplorable practice.

“The Home Office guidelines state that young people should be given the benefit of the doubt – unless it is obvious that they are significantly over 18 – precisely because they could be liable to detention. This report clearly suggests they are breaking their own guidelines.”

“Child refugees, who leave their homes and families behind, arrive in the UK seeking safety. Rather than providing reassurance and support for these vulnerable children, they are being locked up behind barbed-wire fences in detention centres with adults.

“Evidence clearly shows the mental and physical damage that is caused to children who are detained – even if it is only for a short period of time.

“It is a scandal that this practice continues in the 21st century. The UK Government has an obligation to protect these children and must bring an end to this practice once and for all.”

ENDS

Notes:

The Refugee Council report, Not a minor offence; unaccompanied children locked up as part of the asylum system, can be found here:

http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/policy/briefings/2012/18052012Notaminor...

Home Office guidance on assessing the age of an asylum seeker can be found here – see section 2: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/asy...

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