After condemning the forced separation of migrant children from their families at the United States-Mexico border, Prime Minister Theresa May’s own policy of family separation has been exposed by the Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Satbir Singh.
The “zero-tolerance” policy implemented by the U.S. Justice Department against immigrant families crossing the southern border illegally has created a vast humanitarian crisis. Over 2,300 children have been separated from their parents and placed under U.S. custody under inhumane conditions.
“This is not something we agree with, this is not the United Kingdom’s approach,” May said on June 20.
In a recent opinion piece published by The Guardian, Singh begs to differ.
According to Singh, the situation of immigrant children in the U.K. is not far from that of immigrant children in the U.S.
“Unaccompanied children are routinely detained on arrival in the U.K., with more than a thousand, including babies, detained at Heathrow airport last year. And in a chilling parallel to the horrors unfolding in the US, the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees has documented hundreds of cases involving families forcibly separated by immigration detention, with children often put into unstable care arrangements or placed at serious risk of harm.” Singh explains in his article.
The U.K. is the only European country that still detains vulnerable people without a time limit or a clear plan, Singh writes.
To be fair, the over thousand children detained at Heathrow were only kept for a short period unlike in the detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border, where children have been held up for weeks.
Singh also criticizes the U.K. for its policy that separates immigrant children from their families indefinitely.
“The Children’s Commissioner has found that at least 15,000 children growing up in the U.K. live without a parent because the right of British citizens to reunite with a foreign spouse is limited by an unreasonable income threshold, an impossibly complicated application system... and no legal aid for families to challenge incorrect decisions,” Singh writes.
The 2015 report Singh quotes also found that at least 79 percent of 15,000 children were U.K. citizens.
U.K. immigration policies might not be as dramatic as current U.S. policy, but it is clear that in both cases decisions are made with no regards to the suffering and distress they cause in children and parents alike.