UK Border Agency Heathrow Airport child detention “degrading and disgraceful”

08:57 14 May 2012

The UK Border Agency is detaining children in degrading and disgraceful conditions at Heathrow Airport, it was claimed today.

Children of all ages are held there for immigration purposes almost every day and sometimes spend the night there, says the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for the airport in its annual report.

They are held in rooms which are small, stuffy and have no natural light, the report says.

There is no access to the open air, no sleeping accommodation and only hand basins for washing. Children often share space with unrelated adults and can be there for many hours.

A spokesman said: “This continues despite the government saying that it would end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

“The IMB recognises that children cannot always be admitted to the country straight away and are sometimes held for their own protection.

“But it recommends that non-custodial, child-friendly accommodation is provided at Heathrow for families with children as a matter of urgency.”

The report adds that Heathrow is the UK’s busiest international port, where some 15,000 people are detained for immigration purposes each year.

“The conditions under which children are held and that detainees have to endure overnight are degrading and disgraceful,” it says.

A Border Force spokesman said: “We share the Independent Monitoring Board’s concerns about the quality of the accommodation provided by BAA. We have raised this with them on numerous occasions in the past and will continue to do so to ensure those held at the border have proper facilities to meet their and our needs.

“The report rightly recognises that we are handling cases efficiently and professionally and that it identifies improvements in the way passengers, including children, are treated by staff.

“We will respond to the report fully in due course.”

A spokeswoman for Heathrow Airport’s operator BAA said: “We have not seen the report and therefore can’t comment but are somewhat surprised by UK Border Force’s response, since we have had many meetings with them recently and it has not been raised.”

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