The Royal Colleges of Paediatrics and Child
Health, General Practitioners and Psychiatrists and the UK Faculty
of Public Health have published a new
policy statement and recommendations on the harms to the
physical and mental health of children and young people in the UK
who are subjected to administrative immigration detention.
The three Royal Colleges and the UK Faculty of
Public Health believe that the administrative immigration detention
of children, young people and their families is harmful and
unacceptable and call on the Government to see this issue as a
matter of priority and stop detaining children without delay.
Every year the UK detains 1,000 children in
Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs). These children are members of
families identified for enforced removal from Britain, who are
detained indefinitely under administrative order without time limit
and without judicial oversight. The average length of stay of
children in Yarl’s Wood, the UK’s main IRC, is 15 days – but almost
a third of children are detained for longer than a month.
Children seeking asylum in the UK are among
the most vulnerable in our community with high rates of significant
physical and psychological harm reflecting their experience before
coming to the UK, dislocation of their families and the challenges
of poverty and integration on arrival. These are compounded by the
harmful effects of arrest and detention.
Other countries have developed viable
alternatives to children being held in administrative immigration
detention. Now the three Royal Colleges and the UK Faculty of
Public Health call for the UK to follow suit as soon as possible.
Meanwhile the joint statement recommends the following immediate
actions to minimise the number of children and young people
detained and reduce as far as possible the physical and
psychological harm caused by detention:
Children and young people in immigration
detention should be recognised as Children in Need and given the
same safeguards such as Initial Assessment completed within 7 days.
The commissioning of healthcare in the detention estate should be
transferred from the Home Office to the National Health Service.
Primary and secondary medical care for children and their families
should be provided on the same in-reach basis as in the prison
service. Such services need to be properly commissioned and
resourced. Delivery of care should be provided by healthcare
professionals who are competent to respond to the physical and
mental health needs of this client group.
Any medical care offered to children and young
people in immigration detention should be consistent with what
would normally be considered as good practice in other primary care
settings including National Health Service general practice. Mental
health services for children and young people in immigration
detention should be provided based on their current mental health
need and not on their immigration status.
Dr Rosalyn Proops, Officer for Child
Protection, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child
“We are very concerned about the
health and welfare of children in immigration detention. These
children are among the most vulnerable in our communities and
detention causes unnecessary harm to their physical and mental
health. The current situation is unacceptable and we urge the
Government to develop alternatives to detention without delay.”
Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the
Royal College of General Practitioners:
“Children in immigrant families are already
disadvantaged and at their most vulnerable. Detaining children for
any length of time – often without proper explanation – is a
terrifying experience that can have lifelong consequences. As well
as the potential psychological impact, these children invariably
experience poor physical health as they cannot access immunisation
and preventative services. As a civilised society, we cannot sit
back and allow these practices to continue – they are unethical and
unacceptable. GPs work at the heart of their local communities and
are well placed to work with families, agencies and the Government
to come up with alternatives that will improve the health and life
chances of these children and young people. “
Dr Philip Collins, forensic adolescent
psychiatrist representing the Royal College of
"The harsh reality about this
country's immigration policy is that we are significantly
damaging the mental health of many of the children and young people
who end up - through no fault of their own - being detained in a
prison-like environment by the UK Border Agency. The evidence is
clear: this policy directly harms the mental health of children and
young people. That is why the Royal College of Psychiatrists calls
on the UK Government to end this practice without delay."
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, President
of UK Faculty of Public Health:
"This issue goes straight to the very heart of
social justice and human rights. We believe it is unfair
and wrong to exclude these very vulnerable children and
young people from equitable access to normal health and
social care. The UK is a civilised nation. Let's
demonstrate that by ending this discrimination right now."
For further information, please
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Intercollegiate Briefing Paper: Significant Harm - the effects of immigration detention on the health of children and families in the UK.
Note to editors:
The policy statement is supported by the Association of Child Psychotherapists, British Association of Social Workers, British Psychological Society and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy.