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.