Activists occupy Barnardo’s HQ demanding they quit the child detention business

Anti-detention campaigners argue that by agreeing to provide welfare and social care services at this ‘family detention centre’, named Cedars, Barnardo’s is used to legitimise the continued use of detention for children, which the government promised in 2010 to stop doing. [1]

The converted school is officially described as ‘pre-departure
accommodation’, but campaigners argue it has all the characteristics of a detention centre but the name. With a 2.5m perimeter fence and 24-hour security, it is run under the Detention Centre Rules by notorious security company G4S, which runs three other immigration detention centres. [2]

Jo Taylor, one of the activists taking part in the protest, said:
“Barnardo’s involvement with Cedars makes its motto, ‘Believe in children’, sound like a cynical joke. The charity seems to also believe in locking children up. Many of Barnardo’s staff and customers will be appalled to know about this involvement, and that’s why we’re here.”

In July last year, Barnardo’s set some ‘red lines’ for its involvement in the scheme, in what appears to have been a desperate attempt to reassure critics of its controversial decision. [4] The conditions included withdrawing services if more than 10 percent of the families deported in the first year of the trial went through the centre; if any family has stayed at the centre more than once or for longer than the one week maximum; or if disproportionate force is used with a family on route to or from the centre. [3]

Campaigners say many of these conditions have been breached repeatedly. Many families have reported suffering from trauma and being subjected to verbal abuse and physical assaults by the security guards. At least one family is known to have been held at the centre for over one week.

Hours before the protest started, a Kurdish woman with two daughters, aged 2 and 11, was due to be forcibly deported to Turkey, where she would have faced persecution and possible death. [5] The family had been arrested three days before in a dawn raid, described as “horrific”, and transferred to Cedars. Thankfully as a result of campaigns against the deportation the family have been released and are on their way back to Gloucestershire.

The protest coincides with a week-long ‘convergence’ of No Borders activists from across Europe in London. The event’s callout had called upon supporters to “take action against various aspects of the border regime in London and the surrounding areas.” [6]

This is not the first time that Barnardo’s has been the target of protest over child detention. Since Cedars was opened, campaigners have picketed and leafleted staff and customers at various Barnardo’s charity shops, as well as its headquarters in Barkingside, Essex. [7]

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For further questions, please contact:
Email: noborderslondon[at-]riseup.net
Tel: 07438 185537

Notes for editors:

[1] In May 2010, the new coalition government ‘committed’ to ending child detention for immigration purposes as part of a “new, compassionate approach to family removals.” However, while families with children due to be forcibly deported are no longer held in normal immigration detention centres, they are instead placed in new secure facilities, euphemistically named ‘pre-departure accommodation’. The first such centre to open in late summer was Cedars in Pease Pottage, near Crawley, West Sussex. For more on this and other planned family detention centres, see
 http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3881.

[2] Families and children held at Cedars are arrested and administratively detained under the provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act. They are subject to the Control and Restraint Techniques used across the detention estate. Detained children are only allowed out of the facility under strictly controlled circumstances. This clearly amounts to a continued use of the detention of children for immigration purposes. For more on this, see  http://london.noborders.org.uk/node/473.

[3] See
 http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news_and_events/media_centre/press_releases.htm?ref=70802

[4] See
 http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news_and_events/current_news.htm?ref=67322

[5] See  http://www.ncadc.org.uk/campaigns/perihan/.

[6] The No Borders Convergence 2012 (13th – 18th February) is a week-long event featuring workshops, meetings and actions against the border regime. The callout and programme can be found at
 http://london.noborders.org.uk/convergence2012.

[7] For more details on previous protests against Barnardo’s, see
 http://london.noborders.org.uk/taxonomy/term/173.

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