Detention of children of asylum seekers must end, says bishop

By staff writers
February 1, 2010

A bishop has branded the continued detention of the children of asylum seekers in the UK as "shameful", and highlighted a catalogue of harmful affects.

The comments, from the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, representing the Urban Bishop's Panel of the Church of England, came in a statement issued to coincide with the churches' celebration of The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, (February 2nd).

John Packer also called on the Secretary of State to introduce "humane-community based arrangements for children and families which recognise the need to put the welfare of children first".

Each year over 2,000 children are detained in what the bishop called "prison like conditions". No limit is set to the time for which the children may be detained.

The bishop himself has worked with the families of asylum seekers in Leeds. His statement comes after similar calls from the Children’s Commissioner, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Children's Society and many other bodies concerned with the well being of children.

"On 2nd February the Church celebrates the value and potential of a child’s life as we remember the Presentation of Christ in the Temple" he said.

"Children are detained through no fault of their own. They are often removed from familiar settings in sudden and alarming circumstances leaving behind friends, toys and personal possessions. Detention is a distressing experience. Child detainees experience insomnia, bed wetting, weight loss, speech regression, depression, and are known to self-harm. The children of asylum seekers are a vulnerable group, made more so by this policy which has no regard for their mental health. The experience of detention often evokes the trauma they have experienced when flee[ing from] their country of origin.

"I believe the continued incarceration of children to be a shameful practice for our society in terms of child welfare and human rights and must stop."

"I call on the Secretary of State to introduce humane-community based arrangements for children and families which recognise the need to put the welfare of children first, at the earliest opportunity".

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