Tuesday 21 December 2010

Yarl's Wood to close down!

I met the news last week that Yarl's Wood would be closed down with a mixture of joy and suspicion. London Citizens have done a great job in pushing for this move to protect families and young children, and this is a good moment to consider the impact of effective community organising.

However, it is clear that this announcement from Nick Clegg is timed to reduce the huge animosity being built up towards the Con Dem government. The recent taped confessions of Vince Cable are testimony to the mess they are in. Away from the smokescreen of policy announcements, the real issue will be whether the claims from these families of sanctuary seekers will be dealt with fairly. Access to legal support for sanctuary seekers has been greatly reduced by the present government, increasing the chance of families being eventually sent back to potentially life threatening situations without a fair opportunity to defend themselves in court.

In the new year, we will be able to better assess the full implications of this policy, but at least for now, let us hope that the days of endless detention for children in the Governments private prisons is coming to an end.

Here are the headline facts from the announcement:
  • No children will ever be detained at Yarl's Wood again - the family unit closes with immediate effect
  • No children will be held anywhere over the Christmas period.
  • Family accommodation at Tinsley House will be closed down on May 11th 2011 and until then only 5 rooms will be able to hold families for 72 hours before a flight.  While in this accommodation the children themselves will be free to enter and exit with the support of social care workers subject to a safeguarding and risk assessment.  Thus children will not be detained, even in this small number of cases.
  • A complete overhaul of the system by which family returns take place, with greater emphasis on families being supported to leave under their own steam.
  • An independent Family Panel will make sure that any UKBA returns procedure does not compromise the welfare of children.
  • New community-based pre-departure accommodation run by a charity will be provided for the very small number of families who are left once all other options have been tried.  This will be for 72 hours before a flight and children will be free to enter and exit with the support of social care workers subject to a safeguarding and risk assessment.  

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