THURS 18/02/2010 - Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Children's Commissioner for England, has published a progress report into conditions in which children are held at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre.
The report, which contains recommendations for further improvement, follows up one published by the Commissioner in 2009. Since that report, the Commissioner's office has used documentary evidence, visits and face to face interviews with detainees to work with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to improve conditions at Yarl's Wood.
The Commissioner is concerned that children continue to report that they find the process of arrest and transportation distressing. Increasingly, children are separated from parents when transported to the centre. Most are not told what will happen to their belongings and pets left behind and many have difficulty contacting friends.
Whilst healthcare standards have generally improved since last year's report, there are still significant areas which require attention. Failure to adequately prepare children for returning to their country of origin has meant on occasion, children have been removed from the UK without being given adequate malarial prophylaxis.
There have also been reports of unacceptable delays in providing treatment. In one case, a mother informed the nurse at 11.20pm that her five year old child had fallen earlier in the playground. The child could not lift her arm and was not seen by the GP until 2.05pm the next day and went to A&E at 7.02pm. She had a fracture.
Speaking about the new investigation Sir Al Aynsley-Green said: "It is the Government's role rather than mine to decide whether a child should be removed from the UK but I want to make sure the process by which they are removed is humane. Yarl's Wood is no place for a child.
"Ultimately, I would like to see a far faster process and an end to the detention of children in the asylum system. There needs to be more education about the alternatives to detention. But I recognise an end to child detention won't happen overnight and am working to improve the arrest and detention process by looking at it from the child's perspective."
The report has been welcomed by the Children's Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID). Celia Clarke, Director of BID, said: "For the UKBA to claim that some children thrive in detention is quite simply astonishing. The trauma experienced by children in detention comes across very strongly in this report. Children showed diminished physical, mental and emotional health, and in several cases this was not recognised by staff at Yarl's Wood. Particularly concerning is the lack of access to Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services for a number of seriously disturbed young people.
"The welfare assessment reports are an vital way of measuring how children in Yarl's Wood are doing. It is disturbing that the report suggests that these assessments are not detailed enough to correctly identify children's needs, some of which are clearly not being met," Ms Clarke added.