Children will no longer be detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, the government announced today.
The UK Border Agency will instead follow a new four stage process for returning home families who have no legal right to stay in the UK.
It focuses on engagement with families during the decision making process and the opportunity for parents to help decide when and how they return.
Developed after wide consultation, it is hoped that these new measures will ensure a family’s return home is safe and dignified.
‘Today marks an enormous culture shift within our immigration system,’ said deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
‘The coalition government has always been clear that the detention of children for immigration purposes is unacceptable.
‘We are placing the welfare of children and families at the centre of a fairer and more compassionate system.
‘In recent years we have seen hundreds of children, who have committed no crime, locked up in detention centres. Today we show how we will ensure it never happens again.’
Immigration minister Damian Green added: ‘I believe our new measures are both humane and fair. 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.’
Meanwhile, an independent family returns panel is being set up to ensure that child welfare and safeguarding issues are central to individual family return plans.
The panel will be made up of an independent chair appointed by the Home Secretary and other independent experts.
The UK Border Agency aims to have the new pre-departure accommodation in place by May 2011.
In the meantime, if a family refuses to return home, Tinsley House, near Gatwick Airport, may be used as a last resort until that time.