Campaigners demand better scrutiny of restraint cases

Children’s rights campaigners have called on the government to improve scrutiny of the use of restraint against children in immigration cases after major discrepancies were found in accounts of how often restraint is used when children are deported.

Figures released in parliament last October revealed restraint was used 13 times between March 2008 and February 2010 to get children onto planes.

But in response to a freedom of information request from CYP Now this month, the Home Office said there were no recorded instances of restraint before 2009. There were only two on children under escort between March and December 2009, and none since.

Carolyne Willow, national co-ordinator at the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said: “The discrepancy in these figures is alarming and suggests at best a lack of rigorous monitoring by the Home Office of physical restraint used on vulnerable children in the most distressing of situations.”

Although child detention for immigration purposes was ended in May, children can still be subjected to early morning raids prior to deportation and can be restrained if they refuse to comply.

Judith Dennis, advocacy officer the Refugee Council, said: “It is important that we see whether the way children are restrained has changed under the new family returns process. We’d like to see published reports of the occasions on which it was felt necessary to restrain a child to effect the child’s removal to ensure children are being properly protected.”

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “We are looking into an apparent discrepancy in the figures provided to us by two different contractors.”