The return of child detention is a stain on our nation's reputation


The Coalition Agreement, back in the heady days of 2010, made a commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

Things moved quite quickly after that - overnight detention of children at Dungavel House ceased in May 2010. By December of the same year the family unit at the notorious Yarl’s Wood was closed and the detention of children at Tinsley House was promised to come to an end by May 2011.

Meanwhile, the alternative - Cedars, which could accommodate 9 families for a maximum of 72 hours and was run by Barnardo’s, was opened in August 2011. Something I had been campaigning on tirelessly for years and years was quickly made a reality thanks to the Liberal Democrats in Government.

All this now lies in tatters.

Theresa May had barely moved into Downing St before announcing, via a written ministerial statement snuck out on the last day of Parliament, that Cedars would be closing and that the detention of children at Tinsley House near Gatwick would be resurrected. In one fell swoop the rights of children and the reputation of our country was shattered.

The Conservative government seemed to be looking for an excuse to close Cedars ever since they won the election outright in 2015 so when Steven Shaw in his review into vulnerable people in detention recommended that Cedars should “be closed or its used changed” the Government leapt at the chance to turn the clock back.

Not all of Shaw’s recommendations have been implemented and there is no indication that the Government spent any time looking at options of how Cedars use could be changed. It is clear that they saw this as a gift to save some money at the expense of the best interests of the child.

Barnardo’s has already made it clear that it would not be complicit in the detention of children which leaves us all wondering what sort of welfare and support will children have access to whilst being locked up behind barbed wire fencing.

We will, across the United Kingdom, continue to campaign for humane treatment of children, where their best interest is at the heart of policy-making.

Liberal Democrats have always stood up for the most vulnerable and those without a voice. I cannot think of a group who fit this category more and the Conservatives' targeting of them demonstrates the cold, calculated nature of May’s Government.

She may profess to want to build a better Britain but the question is on whose back?


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