G4S to provide child and family welfare services at new detention unit

Controversial multinational security company G4S has been awarded the contract to provide welfare services to support families and children who will be locked up in a new unit at Tinsley House immigration detention centre.

In awarding the contract, the Home Office stated that G4S can provide the “same key aspects of welfare support to families” as have been delivered by the current providers, Barnardo’s, at the euphemistically named “pre-departure accommodation” family facility Cedars, which has closed.

In 2010, the UK Government announced that it had ended the detention of refugee and migrant children. Since then, 1,395 children have been locked up behind the razor-wire topped fences at Cedars.

The opening of the new unit within Tinsley House detention centre, next to Gatwick Airport is seen as a retrograde step by refugee and children’s welfare organisations.

Bella Sankey, Policy Director at Liberty, said:

“As if these families haven’t suffered enough, their welfare will now be in the hands of a company responsible for countless human rights violations and appalling cases of mistreatment of children.”

The Refugee Children’s Consortium, a group of NGOs working for the rights and needs of refugee children, has issued a statement condemning the contract, saying that “it is deeply inappropriate that G4S have been awarded the management of the facility, given their record of mismanagement and abuse.”

The Consortium is deeply concerned at this news, stresses that detention is always harmful to the best interests of a child, and, given the deplorable track record of G4S in caring vulnerable children and young people, believes that this “demonstrates that the government does not consider the wellbeing of children to be its priority or concern”.

“placing G4S in charge of welfare at the new facility, the government has shown a complete disregard for the wellbeing of families and young people in detention. We find it unacceptable enough that, six years after the announcement that the government would end the detention of children, almost 100 children are still detained every year. That the wellbeing of those children will now be the responsibility of G4S is deeply troubling.”

Ali McGinley, Director of the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, said:

“At a time when the damage caused by immigration detention is now widely recognised, it is difficult to comprehend why children will now once again be held behind bars… in an environment completely at odds with their welfare needs. This seems incompatible with the detention reform agenda and the commitments made in January 2016 to reduce the detention of vulnerable people”.

Former Lib Dem leader , Nick Clegg,  said:

“The government’s recent disregard for the welfare and safeguarding of vulnerable children is not the Great Britain I know and admire. First they go back on a promise to accept unaccompanied child refugees from Syria and now they are openly putting innocent children at risk.”

Members of the Refugee Children’s Consortium who have signed the statement condemning the G4S contract are:

Action for Children, Asylum Aid, Asylum Welcome, AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees), Bail for Immigration Detainees, BASW – The British Association of Social Workers, Become, Cambridgeshire Refugee Resettlement Campaign, CARAS, Centrepoint, Children and Families Across Borders, Children England, Child Poverty Action Group, Children’s Rights Alliance for England, The Children’s Society, CoramBAAF, Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Coram Voice, DOST, ECPAT, Family Rights Group, The Fostering Network, Freedom from Torture, Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group, Home for Good, Hope for the Young, The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), JCORE, Kent Refugee Action Network, Law Centres’ Network, Liberty, Love to Learn, Medical Justice, Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU), NCB, NSPCC, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Paiwand, Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, (PRCBC), Project 17, The Prince’s Trust, RAMFEL, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, Refugee Support Network, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Scottish Refugee Council, Student Action for Refugees (STAR), The Trinity Centre, Welsh Refugee Council, UNICEF UK.

5 Responses to “G4S to provide child and family welfare services at new detention unit”

  1. suzanne fletcher

    I agree with nearly all of this and find it distressing and appalling that children are going to be in a detention centre even if a separate part of it, and looked after by G4S.
    However I cannot support your comments about Cedars.
    we may not like or agree with families being removed against their will to their country of origin, but that is a different issue.
    if they are removed it is not at all right they should come from many miles away to a major airport to wait in the departure lounge for a long flight. they have to be somewhere.
    At Cedars they were cared for by trained Barnardo’s staff who did their best to prepare the children for life in the new country that few would ever have seen, in the less than 72 hours they had.
    they were given medical preparation such as necessary injections and being kitted with mosquito nets etc.
    they could play freely in the building and large grounds.
    there were facilities for contacting former friends and nieghbours to say last, sad, goodbyes.
    I’ve never heard of anyone come up with an alternative, given they have to leave the UK – and whether or not is a different argument.
    I hope we can all unite in monitoring what happens in the new unit carefully and campaign on stopping any abuses or mal treatement.

    Reply
    • suzanne Fletcher

      Thanks for the pointer, but yes I knew about the (very good ) document on alternatives to detention. But as it says Cedars was at the very end of the line when everything else had been tried, and whilst by no means perfect, the family returns process did cut down on the number who were returned compulsorily. There does need to be somewhere for those last few days in the UK in preparation for the flight.
      Quite rightly the document talks about alternatives before it gets to that stage, and that should be taken up for all, and not just families. It will mean a huge culture shift in attitudes by Government and is not going to change overnight even if a law were passed tomorrow. No reason why we do not all continue to campaign for these other ways to come about though.

      Reply
      • right-to-remain

        We would still maintain, Suzanne, that is never right to take children from their home and lock them up in a detention centre, even for just a few days. And that it does not actually help with supporting families to come to terms with having to leave the UK. There is absolutely no justification for treating children in this way. We don’t need to monitor this for abuses or maltreatment. It is child abuse by it’s very nature. The fact that welfare support is contracted out to a security company with a proven track record of abusing children and the unlawful killing of people is just sick. It also provides the smokescreen of corporate contract confidentiality where they should be transparency and public accountability.

        Reply
  2. suzanne Fletcher

    Thanks for the pointer, but yes I knew about the (very good ) document on alternatives to detention. But as it says Cedars was at the very end of the line when everything else had been tried, and whilst by no means perfect, the family returns process did cut down on the number who were returned compulsorily. There does need to be somewhere for those last few days in the UK in preparation for the flight.
    Quite rightly the document talks about alternatives before it gets to that stage, and that should be taken up for all, and not just families. It will mean a huge culture shift in attitudes by Government and is not going to change overnight even if a law were passed tomorrow. No reason why we do not all continue to campaign for these other ways to come about though.

    Reply

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