Nearly a thousand children have been held in detention centres for longer than 28 days in the last five and a half years, research by the Liberal Democrats has found.
The information, revealed in a Parliamentary answer, shows:
- 889 children from 488 families were referred to a Minister for authorisation to be detained beyond 28 days between 2004/05 and 2009/10
- A record number - 212 children from 122 families - were detained last year (2008/09)
Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne has also written to Alan Johnson to raise the plight of children in detention centres.
Commenting, Chris Huhne said: “These are the most extreme and most worrying cases out of nearly 500 children who appear to be detained at any one time.
“It is a moral stain on this country’s proud reputation in accepting refugees that we are routinely locking up children for months at a time even though they have committed no crime.
We are physically and psychologically harming children completely unnecessarily, as Sweden, Canada and Australia have shown there are a host of alternatives to detention.
“It is astonishing that Ministers can say this only happens in exceptional circumstances when they have personally signed off hundreds of cases.
“It is profoundly un-British to lock up innocent children at any time, but particularly poignant at Christmas.
“The Government must find its long lost moral compass and end the detention of children in immigration centres.”