A man who was unlawfully separated from his three-year-old daughter while he was placed in an immigration detention centre for three months has been paid £50,000 in damages by the Home Office.
The Indian national, who cannot be named due to a court order, was detained under immigration powers in June 2017 after serving a 20-month prison sentence for unlawful wounding.
The child, an EU national whose mother could not look after her, was placed in care during his jail term, but had been in regular contact with her father.
The family’s local authority and the family court had ruled it was in the child’s best interest and welfare to be reunited with her father on his release.
But the Home Office transferred the man to Verne detention centre in Dorset – 250 miles from the child – on the day of his release. No arrangements were made for him to have contact with his daughter.
He was released three months later, but was provided with a bail address which was still many miles away from his daughter.
A daily curfew was also imposed on him, which made the court-ordered reunification plans impossible.
In an order approved by the High Court, the Home Office accepted that the man was unlawfully detained for the entirety of his detention in breach of its own published policy relating to detention and family separation.
The department further admitted that the detention was in breach of Article 8 of the ECHR on “family life” rights because of their failure to enable contact between the child and her father to take place, and agreed to pay the claimants £50,000 in damages.
Lawyers and campaigners said the detention of the father was a “scandal and flagrant abuse of power” and highlighted the “devastating harm” caused to children who are separated from their parents in the name of immigration control.
Stephanie Harrison QC, counsel for the father and his daughter, said: “The Windrush debacle is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Home Office’s unlawful and abusive use of the draconian power of administrative immigration detention.
“The Home Office’s total disregard for this child’s best interests and welfare in detaining her father is obviously unacceptable. That it was also done in the face of an order from the Family Court requiring, in the child’s best interests, that she be reunited with her father, is a scandal and flagrant abuse of power.
“The total disregard for the individual, which is symptomatic of the government’s hostile environment policy, as this case shows, extends, even to, the most vulnerable in society: children separated from their parent and in care.”
It comes after it emerged the Home Office was separating scores of children from their parents as part of its immigration detention regime – in some cases forcing them into care in breach of government policy.
Schools, the NHS and social services have written letters begging the department to release parents from detention because of the damaging impact it is having on their children.
Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), a charity that supports people in detention, said they had seen 170 children separated from their parents by the Home Office in the past year.
Celia Clarke, director of BID, said: “Time and again we see cases of children separated from their parents in the name of immigration control but we also see the devastating harm caused to those children by periods of separation.
“In this case the Home Office admitted that they breached their statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and the family life rights of this father and child. But this is not a one-off.
“We urge the government to bring to an end the deeply damaging practice of separating parents from their children for administrative convenience.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We try to keep families together wherever possible and when considering returns put the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children at the centre of any decision.
“In this case we accept that we did not comply with our own published policies.”