Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Saturday, 30 January 2010

Bolivian refugee family to get damages from Home Office

Oakington Immigration Reception Centre
The Oakington centre has been criticised in the past by inspectors

A Bolivian refugee family is to receive damages of thousands of pounds from the Home Office for false imprisonment while there was a review of their case.

Carmen Quiroga and her four children, aged three to 11 at the time, spent six weeks in Oakington immigration centre in Cambridgeshire in 2004.

The Home Office accepted they should have been freed when they applied for a judicial review against deportation.

The family was granted the right to stay in the UK in 2008.

Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, representing the family, argued the detention was illegal for reasons including a failure to prioritise the welfare of the children, in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The solicitors claimed that being detained in a dawn raid and held at the immigration centre had left the three eldest children with psychiatric problems.

"They have required significant psychiatric help to seek to overcome this experience," a statement said.

Following the agreement of damages at the High Court, Ms Quiroga said: "I brought these proceedings so that my voice and the voice of other detained families would be heard.

"No family should suffer as we have done. I hope the Home Office have learned lessons from my children's case."

'Serious harm'

Sarah Campbell, research and policy manager at charity Bail for Immigration Detainees, said: "This shocking case demonstrates the serious harm caused to children by detention."

She said the charity regularly saw the "horrendous effects" detention had on children, many later suffering "depression, bed-wetting, weight-loss and even self-harm".

"There is no evidence that the detention of children is necessary for immigration control," she said.

"The fact that this family had an ongoing legal case while they were in detention, and were eventually granted status to remain in the UK, raises very serious questions about why they were detained at all."

David Wood, strategic director of criminality and detention at the UK Border Agency, said its policies and procedures on detention of children had "changed significantly" since 2004.

"Treating children with care and compassion is a priority for the UK Border Agency and whenever we take decisions involving children, their welfare comes first," he said.

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