By Tony Hudson
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has repeatedly failed to uphold its legal duty to safeguard children of immigrants during their parents' detention and separated 200 of them from their family, according to a new report.
The study published by immigration charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (Bid) found 200 children of 111 parents faced appalling consequences as a result of the UKBA's inability to take basic steps to protect them.
According to the study parents were detained for an average of 270 days, and in 92 of 111 cases they were eventually released after it was found their detention served no purpose.
In the meantime, their children suffered serious and unnecessary hardship.
The study found examples of children being moved between unstable care environments, being victims of neglect and, in some cases, in danger of serious harm.
It also revealed cases of children experiencing losing weight, having nightmares, suffering from insomnia, crying frequently and becoming increasing isolated.
"This report reveals the hidden scandal of children being split from their parents by the UK Border Agency," said Bid research and policy manager Sarah Campbell.
"Children we spoke to described their despair and misery at not knowing if or when they would see their parent again.
"The Border Agency displayed a callous indifference in continuing to detain parents, in some cases despite having clear evidence that children were in wholly unsuitable care arrangements."
Some of the parents detained were deported from the UK while their children remained in care.
The report alleges in one of these cases the UKBA did not bother to find out if the children were in a safe care arrangement before removing their father from the country.
While the study did find most, but not all, of the parents deported had committed criminal offenses, the majority of those were non-violent and, in four cases, were immigration offences such as possession of false documents.
Bid believes the research shows UKBA has significantly overestimated the risk of parents reoffending in these cases and has called for swift change to the entire process.