Two Children Detained Illegally at Yarl's Wood IRC

Nellie de jongh

"Children are not allowed to be held in detention on their own. If children are being detained without their parents then they should be released to the care of either their family or social services. Furthermore, a referral to social services' Children and Families Team/Child Protection Team should be made as a matter of urgency and should not take days to be resolved." Jane Dykins, Head of the Children's Section, Refugee Council.


Christian Lopo and Josee Manoka were illegally detained in Yarl's Wood from Friday afternoon till Monday afternoon. They were taken from the Yarl's Wood community on Friday midday and kept in the medical centre in Yarl's Wood and supervised by the on site social worker until Monday.

Home Office policy categorically states that children cannot be held in detention on their own. Their father Paul Lopo who had been with them in Yarl's Wood had been transferred to Colnbrook on Friday afternoon the children at this stage should have been immediately taken into care by Bedford Social Services.

Their detention has been unlawful and the children are entitled to sue the Home Office.

These children are being 'kicked from pillar to post'

Christian will be six next month and Josee is seven years old, both were detained upon entry to the UK, in July 2004. They entered the UK with Paul Lopo the father of Christian and legal guardian of Josee. Paul was immediately arrested and the children taken into care of Hillingdon Social Services.

Paul was convicted of carrying false documents and facilitating illegal entry. He spent eight months in prison and on completion of sentence was transferred to Harmondsworth IRC then to Colnbrook. On the 6th June he was reunited with Christian and Josee in Yarl's Wood IRC.

Christian and Josee, through no fault of their own, have known nothing but one form of displacement or another; they were born to displaced parents. Two years after arriving in the UK they continue to be displaced. Their homes in the UK have been social services, foster care; Yarl's Wood IRC and now they are in the care of Bedford Social Services.

Paul says he has lived in the UK for at least 18 years and has 12 other children who all have British Citizenship.

Paul removed from Yarl's Wood for disruptive behaviour?

Paul's version of the reason he has been separated from his children he says is because he has always campaigned endlessly against detention in all three detention centres especially Yarl's Wood. By helping to organise hunger strikes, petitions and non-compliance, he said I am also being punished for daring to speak to the media.

He also said: "as a parent I was doing the best I could for my children in detention, as only a caged animal can do".

"He said I have served my sentence, I have lived in the UK for the past 18 years and have 12 children who all have British Citizenship, but my children are being punished and have now had two birthdays, two Christmases without me."

Sins of the fathers?

Here we have yet another two children being punished for their parentage, they do not know what is a normal and stable environment, in different ways they have both lost their mothers, I find myself wondering if they were indeed to be deported which country would they would be deported to as it seems clear that both children were refugees in two different countries. Where will they go? Who will have them?




August 2006

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