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Detention of children ends but is the proposed alternative humane?

John O | 06.08.2010 08:02 | Migration | Repression | Workers' Movements | World

Families with all legal rights exhausted to be given two weeks to leave the UK voluntarily

If they don't

Children/parents will be forcibly removed from their homes and taken directly to the airport to board the plane.

UKBA will likely ask for a heavy police presence should the family try and build up any form of community protest on the day of removal. UKBA concerned that if they fail to remove family on the day,  significant public order problems may occur at any future attempts.

In the event of parents of family resisting on the day, family could be separated, children possibly taken into care, whilst police/immigration officials deal with parents.

Any last minute legal challenges processed through the legal system expediently.

The document at many points, stresses the strength of community resistance, from people in the street, teachers, NGOs, MPs, voluntary groups, faith groups, charitable organisations and the media

( The briefing paper reprinted below has been leaked to the media)

Briefing paper

Title: Alternatives to Detention for Asylum Seeking Families, Subject to Removal

From: Nicola Rea - Head of Service Asylum, Refugee & Migration Services Date: 27th June 2010

1. Background

1 .1 The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) have used detention centres as places to accommodate families who are waiting to be removed from the country for many years. This has resulted in political debates on the moral rights and wrongs of whether children should be accommodated in detention.

1.2 In the Coalition Agreement, Section 17, Immigration, there was a commitment from the Coalition Government:  "We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes"

1.3 Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, has therefore requested a review. This started on the 15th June, to run for six weeks. As part of the review, UKBA are undertaking two pilots looking at alternative ways of removing families from the country without using detention. These pilots are in London and the North West. UKBA are under pressure from the Minister to start these pilots immediately so that they can feed into the review findings.

2. The Proposed North West Pilot

2.1 The idealised process of the proposed pilot is as follows:

* The main applicant of the family, who are appeals rights exhausted, is asked to visit Reliance House in Liverpool to be informed by UKBA that they are part of the pilot.

* The family is given 2 weeks to leave the country voluntarily.

* The family is then visited by UKBA and served with removal directions. They are informed that they will be removed at some point in the next two weeks. It is still undecided in the process whether a specific date and time will be given, or a longer period of a couple of days, in which they have to remain in the property ready.

* The family are removed from the property and taken to the airport to board the plane.

* During the month period, any last minute legal challenges will be dealt with, and any immunisations will be administered.

2.2 UKBA have provided the names and addresses of the families selected for the pilot and have commenced liaison with them. The LA's in which the families live have been made aware of who the families are.

3. Issues for Public Services

3.1 There are many potential issues for all public services. For the purposes of ease of reading, these have been split into services areas that the pilot will affect most. Each of these areas are being analysed in order to minimise the risk to the service.

4 Police

4.1 Increased police presence may be required should the family try and build up a form of community protest on the day of removal. UKBA are currently making policy decisions as to what they will do should this scenario occur.

4.2 If UKBA choose not to remove the family - then protests will become a common occurrence. If they continue with the removal of the family then this could lead to significant public order problems.

4.3 The alternative is to not inform the family of the exact time and date of removal, so that they are not prepared. However, this has its own difficulties which would need analysing and addressing.

5. Health

5.1 Some families will require immunisation prior to returning to their country of origin. Health services will be required to administer such immunisations within a specified timescale ensuring the family are fit to travel.

5.2 Some families who have specific health needs may require specific support in being taken to the airport, boarding the plane, during the flight and onwards at the other end. Health service may be required to ensure that suitable support is put in place.

5.3 Some families may have members who suffer from long-term illnesses or have significant health issues. If they decide to abscond, rather than be returned, health providers will face difficulties in providing continuing treatment. There may also be associated public health concerns if such conditions remain untreated.

6. Schools

6.1 In the period between the family being informed they are being returned, and the removal, any children will continue to attend school. These children will possibly have increased distressed levels. They may also talk to other children in the school about having to return to their country of origin. This could cause additional pressures in the classroom environment.

6.2 Occasionally teachers become involved in campaigns to stop families being removed. There is an increased potential for families to ask the teachers and schools for support in this process.

7. The Media & The Third Sector

7.1 Families will continue to live in the community, whilst being fully aware that they are to be removed. It is likely that they will use all means at their disposal to try and avoid being removed. The use of media campaigns is common where similar circumstances have arisen previously and should be expected. Furthermore, lobbying from voluntary groups, churches and charitable organisations is common and can also be expected.

8. Legal

8.1 Families will need to discuss their impending removal with their legal representatives as quickly as possible. It is likely that last minute legal challenges such as judicial reviews will be submitted. These will need to be processed through the legal system expediently.

9. Politicians

9.1 Often the support of MPs and Local Elected Members is requested in a bid to add political weight to any campaign to reverse UKBAs decision. This scenario is likely to continue to occur. MPs and Elected Members will also have concerns over any community cohesion issues within their constituency/ward.

10. Housing Providers

10.1 Service users are likely to display increased distress at their situation.

The stress and anxiety may express itself in more extreme manners and behavioural patterns. Staff visiting the families in their accommodation will be required to deal with such situations.

11. Emergency Services

11 .1 The way in which people react to the knowledge of removal is different for everyone. Some service users may act in a more extreme manner in order to delay removal. This could result in the usage of emergency services, and other services to look after the children whilst the parent is being cared for.

12. Children Services

12.1 Families react in different ways when knowing they are going to be removed. There is the potential for several different scenarios:

* The family accepts removal and is waiting

* The family absconds from the property, resulting in safeguarding concerns for the LA.

* The parents abscond from the property, and the Local Authority has to take the children into care

* There are children missing from the property when the family is meant to be removed.

Some of the above scenarios will have significant resource and safeguarding implications.

13. After Removal Date

13.1 It is common for there to be last minute difficulties with paperwork etc and the family can not be removed on the specified date. It is unknown at the moment what will happen / what support will continue to be provided to the family should this scenario arise.

13.2 It is not an unusual occurrence for there to be last minute issues with families at the airport getting on the plane to their country of origin. It might be that a member of the family needs last minute medical care, and a later plane booking. This could be at any airport in the country, although it is normally Heathrow. A decision needs to be made by UKBA as to what will happen to the family in this circumstance. There are both practical and strategic issues that will need to be addressed if the family are expected to return to the property if the plane is not boarded.

14. Recommendations

14.1 It is important that the pilot delivers an accurate assessment of how families react to the removal processes under examination. All agencies, including local authorities and the voluntary sector, are therefore encouraged to co-operate fully with it.

Nicola Rea

Head of Service - Asylum, Refugee & Migration Service 27th June 2010

End of Bulletin:

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John O
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