Freelance journalist Clare Sambrook, who has been campaigning against child detention, today condemned a Government annnouncement apparently abolishing the practice as a “back track and a fudge”.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said that the ‘shameful’practice will end completely by May and that no children will be held in detention over Christmas.
The children’s wing of the controversial Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire is to close immediately, he said.
Clegg said: “We are ending the shameful practice that last year alone saw over 1,000 children – 1,000 innocent children – imprisoned.
“The practice that, under Labour, saw children literally taken from their homes, without warning, and placed behind bars.”
She said today that the Government needed to halt child detention immediately, as was promised in the summer’s Coalition agreement.
“This is a continuing backtrack. There is no excuse for not stopping child detention immediately because it is doing children psychological damage.
“This saves minister Damian Green the embarassment of dressing up as Santa as he said he would if there were still children in detention at Yarl’s Wood at Christmas.”
Sambrook was one of six friends who formed the End Child Detention Now pressure group.
Her investigative pieces highlighted the cosy relationship with government civil servants and private contractors involved in child detention and revealed how damning reports about the psychological damage done to children held in detention had been ignored by the authorities.
Sambrook’s work for The Guardian, Private Eye, Open Democracy and other publications over the course of 15 months saw her win the Paul Foot Award and the Bevins Prize – two of the top prizes for investigative journalism in the UK.
She revealed how children as young as two had been separated from their asylum seeker parents and then arrested and detained themselves.