Hundreds of children are being detained in immigration centres, officials figures revealed.
A Home Office report disclosed that 470 children entered detention facilities in the first half of 2009.
According to The Guardian, many came from trouble-spots including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The figures are thought to be the first to be published regarding children in detention centres, following lobbying by campaigners.
They showed that almost a third of children had been kept for more than 28 days, meaning they must have been authorised by a Government minister.
And, out of 225 children released from detention in the second quarter of 2009, only 100 were removed from the UK – suggesting they had been locked up unnecessarily.
Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children’s Commissioner for England, told The Guardian: ”If they were allowed to stay at the end of their release, why did they have to go through the detention process in the first place?”
Lisa Nandy, policy adviser at The Children’s Society, said: ”The Home Office has taken a step in the right direction by releasing this statistical information, as, unbelievably, proper data on the number of children entering and leaving immigration detention has until now not been officially released.
”These children have therefore been hidden in an inhumane system which holds them without time limit in prison-like conditions.
“The statistics do however reveal the scandalous extent of the detention of children for immigration purposes, and confirm our deep concerns about the way children are being detained.”
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ”The UK Border Agency fully recognises its responsibilities towards children but these responsibilities have to be exercised alongside our duty to enforce the laws on immigration and asylum.
”This includes ensuring that people leave the UK when we and the independent courts have found them not to have a legal right to be here. We would much prefer it if families in this position left the country voluntarily.
”Detention of children with their families is only used in defined circumstances, as a last resort and for the shortest period of time.
”Families are not normally accepted into detention until they have exhausted their appeal rights and removal directions have been set – but this does not prevent their making further representations which cause these delays.
”If a family decide to appeal against the court’s decision while being detained the removal process is halted. If a judge agrees that there are fresh grounds for an appeal the family are usually returned back to the community until the case has been reviewed.
”We are committed to exploring community-based alternatives to detention. Keeping families out of detention where possible remains a priority. We are currently running a pilot in Glasgow.”
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