Children fleeing the horrors of war in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan are being wrongly classified as over-18 and locked up by immigration officers in adult detention centres in breach of Government policies and legal guidelines.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that UK border and asylum officers are sending teenagers as young as 14 straight to adult detention centres despite clear evidence they are children and without referring their cases to social services, as guidelines dictate in such circumstances.
Five children have been found in the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre since the start of the year, the Bureau has established, while other figures released by the Refugee Council today show at least 127 minors have been found classified as adults in UK detention since 2010.
In May that year then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced the end of child detention in the UK, meaning children could only be held in specific, child-friendly facilities – and only then for a maximum of seven days.
However, the Bureau has found that scores of children are slipping through the net to be mistakenly assessed as adults by Home Office staff and then left for months in conditions that many have described as “distressing” and “scary”. Lawyers believe these numbers are merely the tip of the iceberg.