Human rights worry for immigrant children

Britain should do more to look after the “special needs” of children who arrive as asylum-seekers and immigrants, the EU’s commissioner on human rights warned today.

Thomas Hammarberg said the government needs to quickly ratify the Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking convention, improve age assessment procedures and constantly review the welfare services provided by local authorities for children.

His call came amid a wider demand for Britain to “strengthen” its treatment of asylum-seekers and immigrants.

Fast-track procedures for immigrants may contain “dangers” for human rights in the first of three reports on Britain, he warned.

Detention conditions for asylum-seekers also worried him, leading to a call for a maximum time for administrative detention of migrants being introduced in law.

Mr Hammarberg was also strongly critical of the UK’s record on returning asylum-seekers back to their home country on the basis of diplomatic assurances, suggesting the government does not do enough to ensure asylum-seekers do not face mistreatment on their return.

“Freedom from torture and ill-treatment is a fundamental pillar of European societies,” he said.

“It is absolutely crucial that the authorities respect this principle and ensure effective protection of the returnees’ safety and dignity, also by monitoring their reception in the country of origin.”

A Home Office spokesperson said home secretary Jacqui Smith had announced in January this year a review of the UK’s immigration-based reservation to the UN convention on the rights of the child.

“The results of the review will be announced in due course,” the spokesperson said.