The Coalition Agreement, released in May 2010, stated that the Coalition government would 'end the detention of children for immigration purposes'.

We believe the government deserves credit for confirming that they will end this inhumane and ineffective policy, and for establishing a review into alternatives to the practice. However, ending child detention clearly raises significant challenges for the government which are proving difficult to overcome.

This briefing provides some background to the developments in this area, and sets out how two important principles can and should be put into practice by the government.

Those principles are:

- first, ending the detention of children must mean ending the detention of families.

- second, the government is entitled to remove families with children from the UK once they have exhausted their rights of appeal, and any change in policy must facilitate rather than frustrate return in these circumstances.

Recommendations in the briefing paper include:

- formalising the involvement of refugee and migrant-supporting organisations

- ensuring asylum seekers are aware of the possibility of return early in the asylum process

- the use of alternatives to detention, such as tagging and reporting, and

- ensuring the government is able to enforce returns.