Barnardo’s takes on refugee role

By Ian Dunt

Children’s charity Barnardo’s is going to take on a hand-on role in taking care of children of asylum seekers who are to be returned to their home country.

The move comes as part of a package of reforms designed to make the removal process more humane.

Nick Clegg promised to end the detention of children, a widespread practise under Labour, branding it a “moral outrage”.

While that process has now been secured, new centres were set up for use as a last resort.

Ministers insist that the centres will not have an institutional feel, will respect families’ privacy and only be used as a last resort.

“It is crucial that the welfare of children remains an absolute priority during the returns process and the use of this new accommodation will be a last resort,” said immigration minister Damian Green.

“It will however have an entirely different look and feel to an immigration removal centre with a high degree of privacy for each family.

“I believe our new approach is both fair and humane. We are providing assistance packages and family conferences to ensure families understand their options, and will be trying to ensure that families can remain in the community prior to their departure home.”

Barnardo’s, which has previously been extremely critical of the Labour government’s immigration policy, is being drafted in to ensure welfare standards once families have their lost asylum appeal.

The charity will provide welfare, support and safeguarding services for families during their stay at the centres.

The new returns process ensures that families are offered various opportunities to return home voluntarily before being forced to do so. Failed applicants are handed from the Home office to a panel of experts.

Conferences are offered to discuss plans to send families home, with medical, legal and welfare concerns being addressed.

But children’s charities were critical of the reform, saying it amounted to “detention by another name”.

Director of the Children’s Legal Centre Professor Carolyn Hamilton said: “Holding children in
accommodation from which their parents are not allowed to leave for up to a week may prove just as psychologically damaging as other forms of detention.

“Rebranding detention is not the same as ending it.”