As a last resort families who have refused to leave the country voluntarily following a decision by the UK Border Agency will stay in purpose built accommodation.
This will normally be limited to a 72 hour period, with a maximum possible stay of one week and during that time charity workers will help the family prepare for their return.
Barnardo’s involvement is part of a new child-focused approach to returning families home by the UK Border Agency.
The Deputy Prime Minister announced the closure of Yarl’s Wood to children and an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes in December last year.
Immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘I am very pleased that Barnardo’s have agreed to provide welfare, safeguarding and support services for families at our new pre-departure accommodation.
‘It is crucial that the welfare of children remains an absolute priority during the returns process and the use of this new accommodation will be a last resort. It will however have an entirely different look and feel to an immigration removal centre with a high degree of privacy for each family.
‘I believe our new approach is both fair and humane. We are providing assistance packages and family conferences to ensure families understand their options, and will be trying to ensure that families can remain in the community prior to their departure home.’
Anne Marie Carrie, the Barnardo’s chief executive, added that Barnardo’s are well placed to deliver support: ‘The closure of the family centre at Yarl’s Wood was for us a big prize. There will be some who say, ‘Why would Barnardo’s be involved with this?’ But I cannot think of any child or family who is more vulnerable than in that very stressful last 48 to 72 hours before they have to leave this country.
‘Because parents can be so traumatised, sometimes they can’t give children the attention they need. So running play and organised activity for children will be really important. If not Barnardo’s, then who?’
Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, welcomed the collaboration. She explained: ’As set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the detention of children should only ever be used as a measure of last resort and all decisions affecting them must be made in the best interests of the child.
‘It is good to see Barnardo’s playing a key role.’
Process starts next month
The new four-stage removal process, which began on 1 March, is as follows:
- decision-making by specialist family case owners
- assisted return will be offered, including family conferences to discuss a return home, including any welfare and medical concerns. Voluntary return packages to help families resettle upon their return will also be promoted
- there will be required returns for families who fail to take up the voluntary package, allowing them to remain in the community, but giving two weeks notice to board their flight home. Self check-in at airports will take place without the need for enforcement action by UK Border Agency officers
- an ensured return will be a last resort for families who refuse to depart the UK. The new family returns panel will advise the UK Border Agency on return plans to ensure the welfare of the child is taken properly into account
Find out more on the UK Border Agency website.