Gatwick Pre-Departure Accommodation: Children’s distress means family removals process should be reviewed, say independent monitors

Child describes ‘a palace within a prison’


The Independent Monitoring Board for the Home Office’s Gatwick pre-departure accommodation (PDA) – made up of a team of volunteers appointed by ministers to ensure detainees are treated humanely – today publishes its annual report for 2018.


The report describes much good work that is done to care for and support those who are held in the centre. It also raises some concerns and makes recommendations for improvement.


The Board’s greatest concern is for the impact that the family removals process has upon children and families. During 2018 only 12.5% (two out of 16) of the families who were accommodated at the PDA were removed from the country.


For those who were removed, children who had experienced the trauma of arrest faced a forced move to a country that they did not know. Others who were released face the possibility of being arrested and moved again.


The Board considers that the system as it stands badly affects the children’s sense of safety and security; although the accommodation is comfortable and play areas for younger children are well equipped,  the process significantly affects children (one of whom described the PDA as a ‘palace in a prison’).


The Board describes two attempted removals that were particularly distressing for the children concerned and questions the cost and time spent on this process compared with the distress caused. It also asks the Minister to consider establishing a system of monitoring the arrest and transfer of families and to cease the practice of holding pregnant women in the PDA.