Two families held at the Yarls Wood Immigration Detention Centre succeeded yesterday (11 January 20100) in their claim of unlawful detention. The case of Suppiah and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department concerned two mothers and their young children who were locked up last year following dawn raids on their homes.
The judge also noted that "no one can seriously dispute that detention is capable of causing significant and in some instances, long lasting harm to children".
Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties) intervened in the case and Emma Norton, the organisation's legal officer said: “The UK Border Agency (UKBA) failed these families – prison is no place for a child. The Court has acknowledged how detention damages children. Surely the Government can’t run away from its promise to end this shameful practice.”
The court found little evidence that UKBA had considered its duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children concerned. The Family Welfare Form, the basis on which key operational decisions are made, was incorrectly and poorly completed in both cases. In the case of one family, there was "not a shred of evidence" that UKBA had considered the welfare of their two-year-old child when deciding on detention.
The children still suffer the effects of their detention. One child, who was aged 11 at the time of detention, has now been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
UKBA has been criticised for its all-round performance and the Home Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee said yesterday (11 January) that the salary of the next head of the agency should be reduced and bonuses should not be paid to its officials.