Child detention could be supervised by "family panels"

Panels could identify the most humane ways to remove young people from the UK.

The coalition government's pledge to end child immigration detention could be delivered by the use of "family panels", according to the former chief inspector of prisons.

Lord Ramsbotham, a member of an independent group set up to find alternatives to detaining children, says panels including health professionals and charity workers could identify the most humane ways to remove young people from the UK.

"Family panels would decide exactly how removals would take place," he told a special Westminster meeting set up by detainees' organisations and children's charities. "The way the actual removal is handled wouldn't just be handed over to the authorities. There would be civilised oversight."

Lord Ramsbotham said children might have to be detained for short periods immediately prior to deportation but said "common sense" options should replace the current policy of holding them in detention centres, though he did not give details of the proposed new arrangements.

Speaking in Parliament's Grand Committee Room on Monday, he said the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID) could provide experts to join the family panels and ensure humane treatment of children.

Lord Ramsbotham, a crossbench peer and former army officer, is a member of the Independent Asylum Commission and has been an outspoken critic of Britain's immigration policy under both past and present governments.

Campaigners welcomed the coalition's post-election pledge to end child immigration detention, but many have voiced alarm at the apparent lack of progress in recent months and children continue to be held at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire.