Number of children detained at Gatwick Airport falls

NEARLY 200 children have been detained at Gatwick Airport in the past 10 months, new figures reveal.

The number represents a decrease from 2008 when 615 children were detained at the airport.

In 2010, 312 children were held and in 2009, 411 children were held.

The number of children detained in 2007 and 2006 were 471 and 231 respectively.

So far 175 children have been held in 2011.

No children were held for longer than 24 hours, according to the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

A UKBA spokesperson said: “The majority of these instances would have been for a period of an hour or less. Most of the children would have been accompanied by responsible adults. We endeavor to minimise the number of children held at ports, but it is sometimes necessary while we contact a sponsor or make further enquiries into the safety and admissibility of the child. The welfare and expedient processing of all those under 18 is prioritised by UKBA staff.”

A spokeswoman for the Children’s Society said: “It’s positive to see the progress in the decreasing numbers of children being detained at Gatwick. It’s also good to know that at Gatwick ‘no children were held for more than 24 hours’ and that the ‘majority of these instances would have been for a period of an hour or less’.

“We do know from reports by the independent inspector and other monitoring bodies of UKBA detention facilities at ports, that some children are held for much longer than an hour. In one case at a child victim of trafficking was detained in holding facilities with adult strangers for 20 hours overnight before being taken into local authority care the next morning. These facilities were described as ‘degrading’ and children had nowhere to sleep and lacked access to decent washing facilities. Three children seeking asylum with their parents were kept in holding rooms with no beds for two consecutive nights – 30 hours altogether – before being taken to asylum accommodation.

“We obviously appreciate that border checks are necessary not just to ensure that our border remains secure, but also to meet the UK Border Agency’s obligations to safeguard the welfare of children. This is particularly important where children are suspected to be victims of trafficking. However, if children are being held for child protection reasons, then this needs to be done in a safe environment that is conductive to their welfare and with appropriate supervision by child protection experts. This is why robust monitoring is important.”