Time for coalition to deliver on child detention pledge

The goverenment has postponed its pledge to end the detention of the children of asylum seekers until May; it is up to progressives to ensure that they deliver.

One of the most regressive aspects of the outgoing government was the detention of the children of asylum seekers in prison-like facilities at centres such as Yarl’s Wood. At one point, approximately 2,000 children were held in incarceration centres across the country. It is, in the words of the now deputy prime minister, “a moral outrage” and an affront to a “sense of decency and liberty”. The prime minister called it “a scandal” in yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Beyond Westminster, much more importantly, it has had a severe effect on many of the youngsters affected.

In one study it was revealed that:

• Sixty five per cent of children surveyed had physically suffered due to thier detainment;

• More than half had been psychologically harmed, with some displaying symptoms of loss of bowel control and food refusal; and

• More than one third witnessed acts of violence.

The Coalition had promised to end detention of child asylum-seekers by Christmas. It has now been pushed back until May. The exact plans for what will replace child detention need to be examined. The coalition should be congratulated for its aspiration on this issue, but it is now time for progressives to hold the government’s feet to fire, and ensures that it redeems its pledge.

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