01 February 2010
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, representing the Urban Bishop's Panel of the Church of England, has issued a statement in support of the End Child Detention Now campaign.
The Statement, issued to coincide with the churches' celebration of The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, February 2nd, condemns the detention of the children of asylum seekers as " a shameful practice" which must be halted. It calls on the Secretary of State to introduce "humane-community based arrangements for children and families which recognise the need to put the welfare of children first".
Bishop Packer, who has spoken on the issue in the House of Lords, and worked with families of asylum seekers in Leeds, says in the statement that detention of children, "often in sudden and alarming circumstances leaving behind friends, toys and personal possessions ...", is a distressing experience which must be halted.
THE DETENTION OF CHILDREN
A statement from the Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, Chair of the Urban Bishops Panel.
On 2nd February the Church celebrates the value and potential of a child’s life as we remember the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
In the UK the value and potential of many children is denied through the continued practice of detaining children in immigration detention centres. Each year over 2000 children are detained in prison-like conditions. No limit is set to the time in which children may be detained.
As Bishop of Ripon and Leeds I am aware of the impact of removal and detention on those who experience it as well as those left behind, in our schools, communities and congregations. I welcome the initiative of the End Child Detention Now Campaign.
Children are detained through no fault of their own. They are often removed from familiar settings in sudden and alarming circumstances leaving behind friends, toys and personal possessions. Detention is a distressing experience. Child detainees experience insomnia, bed wetting, weight loss, speech regression, depression, and are known to self-harm. The children of asylum seekers are a vulnerable group, made more so by this policy which has no regard for their mental health. The experience of detention often evokes the trauma they have experience when flees their country of origin.
With the Children’s Commissioner, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of General Practitioners, the Children Society and many other bodies concerned with the well being of children I believe the continued incarceration of children to be a shameful practice for our society in terms of child welfare and human rights and must stop.
The continued detention of children must stop. I call on the Secretary of State to introduce humane-community based arrangements for children and families which recognise the need to put the welfare of children first, at the earliest opportunity.
+ John Ripon and Leeds
1st February 2010
The Urban Bishops Panel is a sub-committee of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. The Panel acts as a point of reference for concerns and policies affecting urban communities and congregations; by drawing on members experience as bishops in urban areas and their engagement in their diocesan community’s life.
In February 2009 the Church of England’s General Synod called on HM Government to: “bring to an end the practice of detaining children and families in Immigration Removal Centres…”
The End Child Detention Now Campaign calls for an end to all detention of children by the UK immigration authorities.
Citizens for Sanctuary, a broad based campaign supported by the churches, are asking prospective parliamentary candidates to sign a pledge which includes a commitment to “support policies that will end the detention of children and families for immigration reasons”.
The journal of Child Abuse and Neglect has published the study ‘The mental and physical health difficulties of children held within a British immigration detention center’, finding:
“The traumatic experience of detention itself … has implications for the sizeable proportion of psychologically distressed children who are eventually released from detention and expected to successfully reintegrate into British society; while those children who are deported are returned with increased vulnerability to future stressors.”
'The Arrest and Detention of Children Subject to Immigration Control' a report by the Children’s Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley Green was published in April 2009.
Bishop of Ripon and Leeds questions and speeches on child detention, asylum or child poverty in the House of Lords. (Hansard):