Theresa May SHUTS DOWN £6.4m-per-year asylum centre sparking outcry from charities
Theresa May promised to open up centres for children and families but the Cedars will now close
Last year The Cedars facility which houses families before they are returned overseas cost the Government an estimated £6.4m - despite being used by only 14 families.
Cedars which is classed as ‘pre-departure accommodation’ was built in 2011 as part of the Coalition government’s pledge to end child detention.
But since the opening the Home Office has come under fire for the huge running costs of those which a whistleblower said can be empty for ten weeks at a time.
Around 80 people are employed at the centre, including guards, cleaners and cooks, who work around the clock.
Last year, a Home Office spokeswoman, said 209 families stayed at the facility in the three-and-a-half years after it opened.
In 2015 only 14 families stayed there.
Last week it was announced it will close.
NC The Cedars cost a reported £6.4m to run last year for 14 families
A statement from Robert Goodwill, The Minister of State for Immigration, said: “The Government met its commitment to end the routine detention of children for immigration purposes by fundamentally changing the way in which it deals with families that have no lawful basis of stay in the UK, and limiting the detention of unaccompanied children for removal.
“The new family returns model introduced in 2011 placed the welfare of the child at the heart of the process.
Cedars has from the outset only been intended to be used as a last resort, after all voluntary or other return options have failed, and following the advice of a panel of independent child safeguarding experts.
“Stephen Shaw’s Review into the welfare of vulnerable people in detention, while recognising that Cedars was an exceptional facility, recommended on value for money grounds that the Home Office should draw up plans either to close Cedars or to change its use as a matter of urgency.”
Mr Goodwill said he would ensure the Government “builds on the learning and experience of Cedars”.
Families will be sent to the new unit being built at Tinsley House removal centre near Gatwick Airport.
The centre looks like a high security prison in comparison to the Cedars which resembles a large home.
Mr Goodwill said the centre will “maintain the required legal safeguards and focus on welfare for families with children”.
But the move is extremely unpopular.
Barnardo's chief executive, Javed Khan, said his charity which worked at the Cedars is not supporting the decision.
He said: “In the five years we have worked with the Home Office to support children and families through the removals process in Cedars, we are pleased that it has been described as an ‘exceptional facility’ and ‘an example of best practice in caring for some of the most vulnerable people subject to immigration control’.”
“However we do not feel that the new proposed accommodation is in the best interests of the children and have told ministers we cannot support the move.
“We will continue to work with the Home Office until Cedars closes.”
Lisa Nandy, a Labour MP, said the policy announcement effectively amounted to the scrapping of the Government’s pledge to end child detention.
She said: “On the last day of Parliament Ministers quietly abandoned the promise to end the immigration detention of children.”
She called the announcement on the last day of Parliament before summer recess “totally indefensible”.
The closure could cause questioning for Theresa May who was Home Secretary at the time of The Cedars opening.
Ms May promised to end the detention of lone child asylum seekers in detention centres.