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Barnardo’s stands by red lines on family returns

Release Date: 19 Sep 2012

The chief executive of Barnardo’s has called for further improvements to the UK’s immigration process, following the first annual report of the Independent Family Returns Panel.

Barnardo’s has provided welfare and social care services to families at Cedars, the United Kingdom Border Agency’s pre-departure accommodation since it opened in August 2011.  The charity advised on the design of the facility to make it as family-friendly as possible and have trained staff to improve their understanding of the needs of families and how to work safely with children during the removal process. Cedars is praised in the report as ‘helping families to prepare for their return both practically and emotionally’.

In response to the report, Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Anne Marie Carrie, said; “Through our involvement at Cedars we have managed to transform the treatment of families in the final hours before they are removed from the UK.

“However, we believe it is imperative that the welfare and dignity of families must be upheld through out the UKBA’s removals process, from end to end.

“We have been clear from the start that our involvement in Cedars would not stop us campaigning tirelessly on behalf of children and families seeking asylum and that remains as true today as ever”.

In particular, Barnardo’s insists that there is still more to be done to improve the family returns process, including significant improvements in minimising the stress to families on departure from Cedars en route to and at the airport, including streamlining travelling and waiting times.

Anne Marie Carrie continued: “When we agreed to be involved in Cedars it was on the explicit understanding that the facility would be only be used with a small number of families, for a short time and as a last resort. Ideally the pre-departure accommodation would not need to exist at all as UKBA should be doing everything it possibly can to incentivise families to make a voluntary return, which is ultimately preferable to an enforced one.

“Families should only be referred to Cedars as a matter of exception, not routine, which is why we will be sticking by our red line that Cedars should be used in no more than 10% of total family returns”.

Barnardo’s believes that it is imperative that the whole immigration process supports children and families, not just the final stages. The charity has used its influence and expertise to support sustainable cultural change in UKBA, with the aim of putting children’s safety and welfare at the heart of the current immigration system. They have pressed the government to make changes throughout the family returns process, including:

  • Lobbying the UKBA to promote Assisted Voluntary Return to families for as long and as late in the removals process as possible
  • Urging the UKBA to ensure that the method of arrest of families is proportionate to risk and that best practice becomes consistent standard practice
  • Persuading UKBA to ensure that health-care professionals have early conversations with families about making provisions to take anti-malarial drugs as appropriate for the country they are returning to, that these conversations are repeated as many times as necessary to engage the family on the issue and that better records are kept
  • Making recommendations about improvements to short-term holding facilities at Heathrow.

Ends

Notes to editors

It was announced in March 2011 that Barnardo's will be working with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to provide welfare and social care within new pre-departure accommodation (PDA) for asylum seeking families, based in West Sussex.

At the start of its work at Cedars, Barnardo's set out its 'red lines' which are as follows:

  1. Barnardo's will speak out about any concerns it has with regards the new immigration process for families.
  2. In order for the government to be held accountable to its commitment to end child detention, we insist that it must release figures each year on the number of families returned - be that through voluntary, assisted, required or enforced return. Barnardo's will withdraw its services if after a year more than 10% of these families are accommodated and returned through the PDA. As the process is new, we appreciate that it may take time to embed, and so this measure will be introduced after August 2012 - however we would expect to see this figure fall significantly over time.
  3. Barnardo's will speak out when any family has stayed at the PDA more than once, or for longer than the one week maximum, due to UKBA procedural error. If this occurs more than twice then Barnardo's will withdraw its services.
  4. Barnardo's will withdraw services if Tinsley House is used as an overflow for families if the PDA is full.
  5. Barnardo's will speak out if the level of force used with a family on route to or from the PDA is disproportionate to the family circumstance.
  6. Should Barnardo's report concerns around any member of staff's behaviour towards families and children, we would expect there to be an immediate review of personnel at the PDA. If the concerns are of a serious nature Barnardo's will speak out immediately. Furthermore, if our concerns go unaddressed, Barnardo's will withdraw our services from the PDA.
  7. Barnardo's insists that a hardship fund is established so that Barnardo's staff can help families with immediate costs incurred on return to their countries.

More information on or red lines can be found here: http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news_and_events/media_centre/press_releases/press_releases_archive.htm?ref=70802

Barnardo’s has had cause to speak out twice so far in accordance with its red-lines. Details can be found here:

http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news_and_events/media_centre/press_releases/press_releases_archive.htm?ref=75517&year=2011&month=12  

http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news_and_events/media_centre/press_releases/press_releases_archive.htm?ref=78396