On the back of recent immigration scandals in the US concerning the separation of children from their families and the release of images of imprisoned children crying for their parents, it has been reported by the organisation Bail For Immigration Detainees (“BID”) that UK migration authorities have also caused family separation by placing parents in immigration detention.
Although the UK’s Home Office regulations state that children are neither to be split from both their parents nor placed in detention for immigration purposes, and whilst the Home Office does not release statistics on the number of parents in UK immigration detention, BID has stated that the organisation is dealing with approximately 170 cases of families being split up because of immigration enforcement each year.
In a study published in 2013, BID reviewed the cases of 111 parents who had been separated from 200 children over a three-year period. The average period of detention had been 270 days. Almost half the 200 children were placed in foster or local authority care during their parents’ detention. In 92 cases, the parent was eventually released. In 15 cases, however, the parent was deported or removed from the UK without their child. In a subsequent study conducted the following year, 2014, BID studied a sample of 47 immigration detainees, and found that 11 were removed or deported without their children.
BID legal manager, Mr Nicholas Beales, has stated that the separations are a result of children generally being asked to remain with another guardian when a parent or both parents are taken into detention. Mr Beales has also stated that in less than two years BID has dealt with several cases in which enforcement action by the Home Office has meant children being taken into care as there is simply nobody else to take care of them while their parents are in detention.
Shockingly, BID claims that parents are often taken away very suddenly, with no indication given as to when they will be released. Furthermore, once in detention, the parents face removal back to their country of origin, leaving the children in the UK alone. The potential consequences are obviously devastating.
The UK Government’s guidance clearly states that children must not be separated from both parents for immigration purposes, and sets out that the decision to detain any parent should be “necessary and proportionate” with regard to any children concerned.
A Home Office spokesperson has reportedly stated that immigration procedures would not result in children being taken into care except in the most exceptional circumstances, and said that a child’s safety and welfare were at the heart of the policy on family returns. BID argues, however, that following this guidance amounts to “little more than a tick box exercise” and says the government is putting individuals in detention with little consideration for the impact on children and that the system needs to change to provide more certainty on how the policy of immigration detention in such cases operates.
Gherson has extensive experience in dealing with immigration detention and deportation. If you need assistance or wish to receive more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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