You may have seen or heard misleading news reports today suggesting that the UK Border Agency is breaking its pledge to end the detention of children.
UKBA has responsed to these misleading news reports and has emphasised the need to hold families at the border, while making clear the bold changes the agency has made to the way families already in the UK are managed and supported.
Brodie Clark, head of border force, said: ‘We have always been clear that we may need to hold some families at the border while enquiries are made to decide whether they can be admitted to the country or until the next available return flight if they are refused entry.
‘In the case of unaccompanied children, we may need to hold them until alternative accommodation is arranged, usually through social services. The number of passengers held is very small compared to the millions that we process and tens of thousands we refuse entry to at the border each year and it is always for the shortest possible period.
‘Not doing so would weaken border security by allowing people into the country who have no right to be here, and, equally, to release unaccompanied children before social workers have arrived to support them would put them at great risk.’
For those families already in the UK, but with no legal right to stay, the agency has introduced a completely new process for managing their return which encourages them to leave voluntarily, sometimes with financial assistance.
In cases, where return needs to be enforced, a new type of accommodation, Cedars, is used to hold families for a short period immediately prior to their departure from the UK.
Cedars has a completely different look and feel to an immigration removal centre and is only being used as a last resort. Families are referred there only after advice has been sought from the independent family returns panel which ensures that the welfare of the children is taken into account.
So far, fewer than ten families have been returned following a short period of stay in Cedars.