The scandal of child detention in the UK

"We were sleeping and the officer came. It was scary and Mum was crying."

"I didn’t think it was real, not real life."

"They were bashing and kicking the door."

“It’s not nice going to the toilet in front of an officer."

"They broke our house."

These comments are drawn from the Children’s Commissioner’s interviews with young children arrested and detained for immigration purposes in the UK.

Since late 2009 OurKingdom has run dozens of pieces, collected here, illuminating the UK’s appalling policy of arresting and detaining children in conditions known to harm their mental health.

You can find them all here, the most recent at the top, including our exposées of how the facts are covered up and the deeper significance of such official mendacity.

Much of this journalism has sprung from the unfunded End Child Detention Now campaign whose journalism is led by Clare Sambrook, now a co-editor here. Clare’s articles for OurKingdom were prominent among those that won her the 2010 Paul Foot Award and the Anthony Bevins Prize for outstanding investigative journalism.

Child detention goes on (albeit on a smaller scale) regardless of the Coalition’s promise to end it, as you can see from our most recent coverage. We continue to expose it and the way state officials, the private companies and government spokesmen dissimulate and mislead the British people about what is being done to vulnerable children in our name.



Hard lives: migrant children and the British state

An impassioned campaign to prevent Yashika Bageerathi's deportation has put Home Office treatment of children in the spotlight.

Why the Jimmy Mubenga trial matters. By ex-Chief Inspector of Prisons Lord Ramsbotham

On Thursday the Crown Prosecution Service announced that three former G4S guards, Stuart Tribelnig, Terry Hughes and Colin Kaler, would stand trial for the manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga on a BA plane in October 2010. Long before Mubenga's death, Lord Ramsbotham was among those who warned repeatedly that Home Office contractors used dangerous methods of restraint.

The nasty country? Debating immigration in the UK

A new Bill removes most grounds of appeal for immigration decisions, excludes undocumented migrants from the rental market, turns landlords into immigration police and extends charges for NHS care. On Monday 10 February Lords debated the proposals.

Lord Ramsbotham attacks 'perverse' decision not to prosecute G4S over Mubenga death

JULY 2013: Crown Prosecution Service reconsiders decision not to prosecute G4S.

JULY 2012: Ramsbotham, former chief inspector of prisons, condemns original CPS decision not to prosecute. Peers describe UK Border Agency culture of disbelief, its abuse of torture victims, denial of legal representation, dawn raids on pregnant mothers, the perils of outsourcing, ‘loutish and aggressive’ behaviour, and that’s not all . . .

Boy locked up for months in adult immigration jail

Child detention goes on in the UK regardless of government claims to have ended it. 

Lost childhoods: age disputes in the UK asylum system

Children seeking asylum in the UK are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes. The culture of disbelief so often criticised in the Home Office has seeped into some local authorities, says Kamena Dorling.

Miscarriage, stillbirth, psychosis. Pregnant in UK immigration detention

It is government policy to detain pregnant women in only very exceptional circumstances. But it happens a lot. The Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists warn that women and their babies are being put at risk.

What stops the UK protecting victims of trafficking?

How we’ve managed to make protecting trafficking victims so complicated.

Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?

If detention is a tool of war on irregular migration, then the damage on both sides is severe. But this war is not inevitable. There is a significant area of potential common interest in a fair system that works primarily by consent

openDemocracy writer longlisted for Orwell Prize

Clare Sambrook, one of OurKingdom’s co-editors, is among 14 nominees for the UK’s leading prize for political journalism.

Another G4S scandal: UK's privatised asylum housing market is falling apart

The sensitive work of housing vulnerable asylum seekers appears to be defeating the world’s biggest security company. A leaked letter from G4S director (a former Rentokil executive) illuminates the unfolding crisis.

Their secret is out, but for G4S and friends ‘abject disregard' for human dignity persists

Landlords get richer. Women are harassed in their homes. The UK Border Agency's contractor G4S is using subcontractors who are not up to the task. The newly privatised market in asylum housing is a shambles and a warning.

Is she a victim or an illegal immigrant? The UK Border Agency decides

Officials who identify victims of trafficking are being judged by how many people they eject from Britain. Is that wise?

Healthcare failings persist in UK immigration detention

Inquests, High Court judgments, reports from HM Inspector of Prisons, Medical Justice, and the UK Border Agency’s own inspectorate have all exposed healthcare failings in UK immigration detention centres, but change is a long time coming.

Inspectors condemn UK’s detention of torture survivors and victims of trafficking

The UK immigration authorities routinely detain people who should not be detained, and ignore or dismiss medical evidence of torture. A joint report today from the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency and HM Prisons Inspectorate urges the agency to stop breaking the law.

G4S uses ‘unacceptable’ force on pregnant detainee at UK family detention centre

HM Inspectorate of Prisons report finds that G4S security staff at a UK Border Agency detention facility “deserve great credit”, despite unacceptable use of force on pregnant detainee.

Coalition promise in tatters as Home Office 'independent' panel wants more children detained

The Coalition government promised to end child detention for immigration purposes, and appointed an 'independent' panel to protect children caught up in the asylum system. That Panel's first annual report rightly exposes a commercial contractor's ineptitude — and unwittingly reveals its own capture by the Border Agency.

What can be done to prevent further injury and death in the UK Border Agency’s care?

As immigration detainees continue to suffer injury, neglect and even death, the charity Medical Justice challenges the apparent impunity of the UK immigration authorities and their commercial contractors.

The UK Border Agency's long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco)

The appalling Rochdale sexual abuse scandal prompted long-overdue scrutiny of our children’s homes. Another national disgrace ripe for exposure is the UK Border Agency’s serial and repugnant oppression and abuse of vulnerable children over more than a decade. Today OurKingdom publishes Clare Sambrook’s exposé of the Border Agency’s abuse of children and its relentless misrepresentation of evidence of harm. We call upon Parliament to hold ministers, the Home Office and its ugly agency to account. (The material that follows is distressing.)

G4S teaches UK Border Agency how to care for children

  • It’s no joke — the world’s biggest security company is training immigration staff in “Keeping Children Safe”. 
  • • G4S "invited" to deliver training without competition.
  • • UK Border Agency executives "delighted" and "couldn't have been more complimentary".
  • • G4S has record of harming children and adults in its care.

Controversial doctor and Barnardo’s serve UK’s flawed child detention policy

Cracks show in ‘compassionate approach’ to locking up children for the sake of administrative convenience.

How many children secretly deported under UK Border Agency’s Gentleman’s Agreement?

When heartless illegality is official Government policy.

Routine neglect by UK government-contracted doctors brings torture victims fresh trauma

Medical reports on torture victims in the state's care are of poor quality and lack clinical judgement, says HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Nice Brits wouldn’t lock up children who ask for help, would they?

On British government responses to migrant children

Your asylum procedure is too fast and not fair, UNHCR tells UK government

Depriving an individual of their liberty for administrative convenience risks breaching international human rights principles says United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
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