This week, Unlocking Detention virtually visited Cedars ‘pre-departure accommodation’ (i.e. a detention centre) for families and children.  Cedars opened in August 2011 after the Coalition Government’s promise to end detention of children in Yarl’s Wood.

Cedars is in Pease Pottage near Gatwick Airport. CEDARS stands for Compassion, Empathy, Dignity, Approachability, Respect, Support.  Hmm.

According to the Independent Monitoring Board for Cedars, it also gets its name from a ‘red cedar tree believed to be 200 years old is located in the grounds’.   The ‘apartments’ that families are held in are called things like ‘Snowdrop’, ‘Orchid’ and ‘Lavender’.  Pretty names, but not a pretty picture, as we heard this week in #Unlocked15.

Cedars is small – it has just nine ‘apartments’, with a maximum capacity of 44, just for families with kids.

Of these eighteen families held in 2014, eight were released back into the community.  These figures are similar to the release vs removal rates of other centres, apart from Dungavel detention centre in Scotland, where 75% of those detained are released back into the community, not removed!  This of course raises the very important question of, why detain in the first place?

Families can only be held at Cedars for 72 hours (though this can be extended to up to 7 days with ministerial approval).  This is in sharp contrast to adults in detention, for whom there is no time-limit (despite what the Immigration Minister James Brokenshire seems to believe).

The number of children being detained has decreased significantly since the Coalition Government ‘ended child detention’ in 2010, but nonetheless children are still being detained.

In addition to those recognised as children, many more are detained because the Home Office wrongly believe them to be adults.  These young people are detained in the other, adult detention centres until they can prove their age (and claim compensation for unlawful detention).

This week, we featured three very different articles from three different communities challenging detention.

We also heard from Caritas Social Action Network, on how “We should see detainees as our equals in the eyes of God”.

And we heard about the Bristol Immigration Detention Campaign, and their ‘keys to freedom’ awareness-raising.

You can read all of these articles, and many more, on our blog – do have a look!  And thank you to our followers for tweeting and encouraging us during the tour!