The British government's policy of detaining children at immigration removal centers was challenged in the High Court recently.
The entrance to the Yarl's Wood Immigration and Detention Center in Great Britain. (Photo: Oliver White)
Although the coalition government has pledged to end the controversial practice and is in the middle of a review looking at alternatives, it is still taking place. The policy came under judicial review challenge when two single mothers and their children sought an order declaring the policy unlawful.
Last February, Reetha Suppiah, Sakinat Bello and their children were arrested by United Kingdom Border Agency officers and detained at Yarl's Wood for 17 and 12 days, respectively. Public Interest Lawyers, acting for Suppiah and Bello, said upon arrival at Yarl's Wood, all the children became sick, suffering from diarrhea and vomiting; the detention experience has had a "profound effect" upon them, they said.
The families claim their detention was unlawful and in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"Our clients' experiences and the broad expert consensus point to a practice that is inhumane, destructive and unnecessary," according to Jim Duffy with Public Interest Lawyers. "Child detention has to end now."
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The government is fighting the case because it remains "committed to the removal of those found by the courts to have no right to remain in the U.K.," a spokesman said. However, through a comprehensive review, the government "is focused on finding an alternative to detention that protects the welfare of children, without undermining immigration law. The detention of families will be kept to a minimum until the review is completed."
The Baptist Union of Great Britain has campaigned regularly for an end to the policy.
A case such as this "provides all the evidence needed that detaining children is completely unacceptable," said Rev. Graham Sparkes, the Baptist Union's head of faith and unity. "It is a policy that must change – and the churches will continue to campaign until the government fulfills its pledge to end the practice."
A decision on the judicial review is expected in December.
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.