The government has announced its plans for a more “humane approach” to family reunions where the best interests of children will remain paramount. The immigration minister’s statement in relation to ending the detention of children from last December can be viewed here.
The move is a what the agency has described as maintaining the rights of children while returning those to their countries who have no right to be in the UK. All this remains wedded to court decisions ( for example ZH (Tanzania), R (on the application of TS) which have placed children’s rights as the keystone of the UK’s legal obligations which have a domestic and international face.
The agency has described its responsibilities as a four-stage process based on:
- Decision-making: which is to be strengthened by creating specialist family case owners within the agency and to work in collaboration with families and the UN. The agency hopes “to test and improve the quality of our decision making” (surely a welcome strategy);
- Assisted return, including family conferences: which will address the family’s return home, welfare and medical concerns. Moreover, the possibility of bespoke assisted voluntary return packages designed to help families resettle upon their return is a part of the process;
- Required returns: for those families who don’t comply with assistance packages, allowing them to remain in the community, “but giving two weeks notice to board their flight home and allowing self check-in without the need for enforcement action“; and
- An ensured return: as a last resort for those families who refuse to depart from the UK. The new family returns panel will have charge of advising agency on return plans to ensure the welfare of the child is considered properly.
The agency explained further that “options will include a form of limited notice removal, the use of open accommodation, and – as a last resort where families resolutely fail to comply? family friendly, pre-departure accommodation.”
The last sentence pretty much still means that child detention will continue , although now it has been glossed up with UKBA camouflage and has subsequently been deemed “family friendly”.
One thing which is certain is that the government’s proposed camouflage will fail to conceal the outrage which any abuse or violation of the above “family friendly” approach will produce in the United Kingdom’s legal fraternity.
Despite the above criticisms great strides have been made by the UK in discharging its obligations under “the law”. Moreover, in the face of judgments by the ECJ such as the Zambrano case, by virtue of the TFEU, member states are increasingly disempowered to do what they want to control immigration where the question of dependent children (who are European citizens) and non-national parents arises.
This site has nothing against the UKBA but its editor has had some really unreal encounters with them so finds anything that they say to be a misrepresentation of the truth.
However, it is great that the British authorities have the backing and involvement of some of their sternest critics. Bernados will be involved with the UKBA in running the “pre-departure accommodation”. The chief executive of Bernados, Anne Marie Carrie explained that:
We are absolutely not going to be scared about speaking out if the accommodation becomes a revolving door, if families are being referred as a matter of routine – rather than as exceptions – and if any of the staff conduct themselves in a way that is not about having children’s welfare paramount or that doesn’t treat the people who are there with dignity and respect.
In the meantime the UKBA has updated all its bureaucratic documents and instructions to reflect its new commitments. Good luck getting them to do it right. It would be great if immigration officers would fill out their names on removal directions and other documents which notify a person of their liability to detention and removal. And pigs will fly too some day we can be certain!