Detention Centre Must Improve Identification Of Under-18s

The chief inspector of prisons has told Oakington detention centre it must improve its care of children after a sharp rise in the number of under-18 detainees.

Oakington Immigration Reception Centre, which is supposed to only hold adult males, has been told it must introduce “robust mechanisms” to identify on arrival all young people who might be under 18 and refer them for assessment, legal advice and appropriate care “without delay”. Between January and June this year 46 detainees were found to be under 18, up from 16 the whole of the previous year.

Oakington’s latest inspection report, published on Friday, said it “was not clear” that the centre would be able to prioritise the needs of under-18s as the Refugee Council, which carried out much of the monitoring of underage and referral to social services at the site, was about to leave.

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said: “This was a disappointing inspection of an establishment which seemed to have lost direction and purpose.”

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “We have grave concerns about what is happening to people now we are not there to provide independent support.”

She added: “Children should never be detained. It is common practice to dispute the age of an unaccompanied child who has applied for asylum and a great proportion of those are found to be children. We should not be locking them up with adults, including ex-offenders, in the meantime.”