The British Home Office has paid over £1m, plus £1m costs, in compensation to 40 child asylum seekers, including some from Sri Lanka, who were wrongly held as adults in detention centers before 2005, the Guardian reports.
The children, including 25 aged 14 to 16, from countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Eritrea, Uganda, Somalia and China began legal proceedings seven years ago for being “wrongfully detained”, showing letters from social services stating that they were looked-after as children.
Previously, immigration officers could refuse to accept a person’s claim to be under 18, if they suspected otherwise. The British government accepted its policy was unlawful, and changed it after the case resulted in the £2m payout.
Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said that although the UK government has vowed to fight child detention “children who are here on their own, many having fled horrifying experiences in their own countries, are still being detained due to flaws in the system. This is unacceptable.”
One boy, who was detained for 74 days in seven different adult centers including Dover, Campsfield and Harmondsworth, said, “I cried myself to sleep every night. Nobody explained what was going on and I never knew what was going to happen to me when I woke up the next morning.”
Mark Scott, of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, who represented the children in their judicial review proceedings, said, it was “shocking” that “the Home Office did nothing to change the situation until they were forced to do so by children bringing litigation.”
After it was revealed in 2009 that 1,065 under-18 asylum seekers were locked up, in 2010, the UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the “shameful” practice of detaining children would end, expected to be replaced by a “fairer and more compassionate approach”.