A family of Kurdish refugees from Turkey has received a six-figure payout from the UK Home Office, almost 10 years after being detained for over 12 months as government authorities tried to deport them to Germany, where they had initially made a claim for asylum.
The case relates to four children in particular, who at the time were aged between seven and 13, whereby their detainment was seen as ‘shameful’. The Ay family were originally detained at Dungavel Immigration centre in Scotland and the case received celebrity attention from British actor Colin Firth and writer J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter Books).
Firth in particular was outraged at the situation and described the detainment as “shameful cruelty” in a letter written to a newspaper back in May 2009. The asylum seeking family also became the inspiration for a play called ‘Broken English’, which aired on Radio 4 back in 2006.
Representatives of the Ay Family, who are now based in Germany, began civil proceedings against the Home Office on the grounds of unlawful detention. The family felt they had been detained for far too long and were also concerned that their deportation to Germany would result in them being sent back to Turkey, where their parents have suffered persecution.
The chief executive of the Refugee Council, Donna Covey, released a statement saying that: “We will continue to campaign for child detention to end once and for all until no other children are locked up by what is supposed to be a civilised state.”
A spokesperson for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) said: “In March 2011, we established a new family returns process that ended the detention of children. This ensures that families with no right to be in the UK are given every opportunity to leave without the need for further action and are offered assistance at every stage.”
The spokesperson added: “As a last resort, where all voluntary options have failed, families may be held in our pre-departure accommodation at Cedars, which is run in partnership with Barnardo’s.”
In the meantime, whilst child asylum seekers are no longer detained for lengthy durations, they can still be held for up to a week.