Authors' bid to end detention

Drive to end child detention at Yarl's Wood

Children at the Yarl's Wood Detention Centre were visited by a pair of children's authors in a bid to highlight child detention in the UK.

Beverley Naidoo, author of The Other Side of Truth and Baba's Gift, and illustrator Karin Littlewood met children at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) on Monday (7 December) to give a reading and art workshop.

Mrs Littlewood said: "Whenever I go into schools, the children always say about the books and drawings, 'can I take this home with me?'

"This is the first time that nobody has asked me that.

"It made me think, where is home for these children?"

"All you have to do is to think, if that was your family, if that was your sister or daughter or nephew, what would you feel about them being locked up?"

On Wednesday (December 9) an open letter signed by children's authors, calling for an end to child detention was published in national newspaper The Guardian.

Yarl's Wood, on the outskirts of Clapham, is the main centre in the UK with family accommodation.

In May 2008 Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the children's commissioner, visited the site and found it to be below the standards expected by the NHS.

On Thursday London's royal medical colleges issued a strongly worded briefing paper which called for an end to the detention of children.

The paper claimed that "detention is unacceptable and should cease without delay."

It also warned of the physical and psychological consequences of such treatment on the 1,000 children detained in IRCs every year.

Mrs Naidoo said: "We have spent a morning with a group of delightful, thoughtful young people.

"But this brings home the fact that our government should not be asking Serco to lock up innocent children when there are alternatives to detention.

"It is done in our name and we should say a loud 'No'.

"The UK has a fine tradition of offering refuge to those who need it, but I fear that the current climate of hostility to those who seek asylum here is threatening that tradition."