UK & World News
Children's Rooms At Heathrow 'Disgraceful'
Children are being detained in "degrading and disgraceful" conditions by the UK Border Agency at Heathrow airport, a government watchdog has claimed.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for the airport said in its annual report that youngsters of all ages are held there for immigration purposes almost every day - and sometimes spend the night.
They are held in rooms which are small, stuffy and have no natural light, according to the report.
It says there is no access to the open air, no sleeping accommodation and only hand basins for washing - while children often share space with unrelated adults and can be there for many hours.
"The conditions under which children are held and that detainees have to endure overnight are degrading and disgraceful," the report says.
A "welcome improvement" was noted in the care of detainees in the five years since the IMB for short-term holding facilities at Heathrow was established.
"However, the accommodation remains unsuitable for anything but a very brief period of detention and is quite inappropriate for holding children or for overnight use," it says.
The report adds that Heathrow is the UK's busiest international port, where some 15,000 people are detained for immigration purposes each year.
A spokesman said: "This continues despite the Government saying that it would end the detention of children for immigration purposes.
"The IMB recognises that children cannot always be admitted to the country straight away and are sometimes held for their own protection.
"But it recommends that non-custodial, child-friendly accommodation is provided at Heathrow for families with children as a matter of urgency."
A Border Force spokesman said: "We share the Independent Monitoring Board's concerns about the quality of the accommodation provided by BAA.
"We have raised this with them on numerous occasions in the past and will continue to do so to ensure those held at the border have proper facilities to meet their and our needs.
"The report rightly recognises that we are handling cases efficiently and professionally and that it identifies improvements in the way passengers, including children, are treated by staff. We will respond to the report fully in due course."