Kids in detention and why public pressure is so important

Poor physical conditions, no access to legal advice, children handcuffed. Does this sound like a place to hold some of the world’s most vulnerable children?

By Matthew Leidecker, Campaigns Manager

Immigration detention has caused lasting trauma and shattered the lives of thousands of our adult clients – it’s definitely not a place for children.

Child immigration detention was mostly banned in the UK in 2014, but the Government failed to completely outlaw the practice.

Now it has returned.


Urgent Last week the Government announced that it is holding children in a UK immigration detention centre.

Detention is no place for a child – it is harmful, unjust and against the law. Sign and share the petition now to stop child immigration detention

Add my name

Under Boris Johnson and Priti Patel the system for protecting vulnerable unaccompanied asylum-seeking children has collapsed.

Their answer is to lock up children instead – and last week the Government announced that it is holding children in a UK immigration detention centre.

Since then, thousands of us have mobilised to oppose the return of child immigration detention in the UK. 

The centres where it is now proposed that children are held are known as “Short Term Holding Facilities”. They are the darker, harsher, less regulated and more secretive corner of our immigration detention system.

This year, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons was able to inspect these facilities for the first time in many years. It found no access to legal advice in any centres, no management oversight of length of detention, and poor physical conditions. The report notes that, “[n]one of the rooms were suitable for overnight stays.”

On the question of children already held in these places, the inspection reported that “[t]here was inadequate oversight of detention practices for children,” and that there was no accurate data on how long children were being detained.

It also detailed incidents of children being held for long periods of time and regularly handcuffed. In some cases, unaccompanied children were not even permitted to leave ships on which they were found, were not interviewed with a responsible adult present, and did not have access to legal advice or a telephone call.

Does this sound like a place to hold some of the world’s most vulnerable children? Children who have fled the world’s most dangerous situations deserve immediate protection and support – not detention.

This is where we all come in. The more of us who voice our opposition, the more likely it is that the Government will pay attention. We know that what we do works – and public pressure from all of us makes all the difference.

Just look at what we’ve achieved together so far this year.

With a combination of legal action and public pressure, we secured the release of close to 1,000 people from detention during the COVID crisis and we stopped dozens of unjust deportations to Jamaica, ensuring that families are not broken up and people’s rights are protected.

We have now written to the Government to demand urgent answers. We need to establish what is happening to these children and whether it is against the law.

So far, we have not received any reply – making public pressure from all of us more urgent and more important.

Let’s keep fighting, keep campaigning and keep speaking out.

More to come soon…

Read more on child immigration detention

The Government’s Broken Immigration System Risks The Stealth Return Of Child Detention – click here to read

Exclusive: Priti Patel ‘Breaking The Law’ By ‘Detaining’ Lone Children Who Cross The Channel – click here to read