Immigration officers use restraint at deportation

Campaigners have voiced alarm at revelations that staff in immigration detention centres and officers escorting children onto planes for deportation are authorised to use restraint techniques.

Following a parliamentary question by Liberal Democrat MP Annette Brooke, statistics have been released that show in the 12 months up to June 2010, detention custody officers were authorised to restrain children on 18 occasions for the purposes of removal, with restraint techniques used on three of those occasions.

Between March 2008 and February 2010, restraint was used a further 13 times by officers escorting children onto aircraft.

Emma Ginn, co-ordinator of Medical Justice, which campaigns on behalf of immigration detainees, said: “Any restraint on children in detention is inappropriate.”

In November last year, Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 came into force, making the UK Border Agency (UKBA) duty-bound to consider children’s safety and welfare in the course of its work, while the children are in the UK.

Jonathan Ellis, policy director at the Refugee Council said: “The UKBA has an obligation to safeguard the welfare of children, so it is of some concern that the restraint of children has been used in recent months. The government must ensure that any alternative [to detention] has the wellbeing of children at its heart.”

In response to the concern, Conservative immigration minister Damian Green said those using restraint in immigration cases must undergo training in techniques approved by the National Offender Management Service.

“We only use restraint on a child where it is strictly necessary to prevent self-harm or to protect others and property,” he said.