#Unlocked15 at Cedars

This week, Unlocking Detention virtually visited Cedars ‘pre-departure accommodation’ (i.e. a detention centre) for families and children.  Cedars opened in August 2011 after the Coalition Government’s promise to end detention of children in Yarl’s Wood.

Cedars is in Pease Pottage near Gatwick Airport. CEDARS stands for Compassion, Empathy, Dignity, Approachability, Respect, Support.  Hmm.

According to the Independent Monitoring Board for Cedars, it also gets its name from a ‘red cedar tree believed to be 200 years old is located in the grounds’.   The ‘apartments’ that families are held in are called things like ‘Snowdrop’, ‘Orchid’ and ‘Lavender’.  Pretty names, but not a pretty picture, as we heard this week in #Unlocked15.

Cedars is small – it has just nine ‘apartments’, with a maximum capacity of 44, just for families with kids.

Of these eighteen families held in 2014, eight were released back into the community.  These figures are similar to the release vs removal rates of other centres, apart from Dungavel detention centre in Scotland, where 75% of those detained are released back into the community, not removed!  This of course raises the very important question of, why detain in the first place?

Families can only be held at Cedars for 72 hours (though this can be extended to up to 7 days with ministerial approval).  This is in sharp contrast to adults in detention, for whom there is no time-limit (despite what the Immigration Minister James Brokenshire seems to believe).

The number of children being detained has decreased significantly since the Coalition Government ‘ended child detention’ in 2010, but nonetheless children are still being detained.

In addition to those recognised as children, many more are detained because the Home Office wrongly believe them to be adults.  These young people are detained in the other, adult detention centres until they can prove their age (and claim compensation for unlawful detention).

This week, we featured three very different articles from three different communities challenging detention.

We also heard from Caritas Social Action Network, on how “We should see detainees as our equals in the eyes of God”.

And we heard about the Bristol Immigration Detention Campaign, and their ‘keys to freedom’ awareness-raising.

You can read all of these articles, and many more, on our blog – do have a look!  And thank you to our followers for tweeting and encouraging us during the tour!

How children’s charity Barnardo’s locks up kids with Guantánamo contractor G4S

This article comes from Tom Sanderson. You can read the full article in OpenDemocracy.

Britain’s leading children’s charity helps the world’s biggest security company lock up children who have committed no crime.

This past summer I’ve been trying to get some answers from Barnardo’s, the children’s charity, about their three-year partnership with the world’s biggest security company, G4S. Working together under a UK government contract, G4S and Barnardo’s hold asylum seekers and their children at a secure facility called Cedars in West Sussex, within easy reach of Gatwick Airport. CEDARS is an acronym for Compassion, Empathy, Dignity, Approachability, Respect and Support.

What is Barnardo’s doing in the immigration detention business? And how can a charity that claims to “fight for the UK’s most vulnerable children, supporting the children who need it most”, partner up with G4S?

That’s G4S, a company that supplies the Israeli military in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, that deploys ex-Gurkhas against environmental protesters in the UK, and that has just won a contract to support Guántanamo?

Under Britain’s Labour government, thousands of children, many of them born in Britain, were held with their parents in immigration detention centres in conditions proven to cause them lasting harm. As the Refugee Children’s Consortium notes: “After release from detention, the majority of families experienced on-going and persistent effects on their mental and emotional health.”

Many of the families had valid asylum claims and subsequently obtained leave to remain. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg called the practice of child detention “state-sponsored cruelty”. In May 2010, the Coalition Agreement committed the new government to ending child detention for immigration purposes.

But instead of ending child detention, the government opened a new kind of lock-up, called ‘pre-departure accommodation’, with soft furnishings and a ‘family-friendly’ decor.

The Home Office selected G4S to run the new family-friendly facility, regardless of its renown among migrants as the company that killed Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan father of five who died while being heavily restrained by three G4S guards.

In March 2011 the Home Office named Barnardo’s as G4S’s partner in the business. Or, as the government’s press release put it: “Barnardo’s help asylum families. Children’s charity Barnardo’s will provide support and accommodation to migrants who have no right to be in the UK.” The new centre opened in August 2011.

The government set up a new ‘Independent Family Returns Panel’ to oversee the repackaged system. But with medical advice provided by Dr John W. Keen, a man who had been giving controversial assessments on asylum seekers for the UK Border Agency for years, it wasn’t quite as new or independent as advertised.

Barnardo’s drew a lot of criticism for their involvement in what they like to call, euphemistically, ‘the PDA’. In an attempt to deflect criticism, in August 2011, then chief executive Anne-Marie Carrie publicly set out what she called Barnardo’s ‘red lines’ — commitments which ranged from mild (the charity would “speak out about any concerns it has with regards the new immigration process for families”) to the meaninglessly convoluted:

In order for the government to be held accountable to its commitment to end child detention, we insist that it must release figures each year on the number of families returned – be that through voluntary, assisted, required or enforced return. Barnardo’s will withdraw its services if after a year more than 10% of these families are accommodated and returned through the PDA. As the process is new, we appreciate that it may take time to embed, and so this measure will be introduced after August 2012 – however we would expect to see this figure fall significantly over time.

Got that?

Carry on reading this article at OpenDemocracy