• KATE SMITH Doctoral Researcher, and Lead for Asylum Research Practice, The Centre for Applied Childhood Studies, The University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH, England, +441484 473237
  • ADELE JONES Professor of Childhood Studies and Director of The Centre for Applied Childhood Studies, The University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH, England, +441484 473237


Women, children, gender sensitivity, asylum, detention, United Kingdom.


This article examines the detention of asylum seeking women and their children and demonstrates that this practice breaches human rights obligations and undermines the UK’s policies on gender sensitivity and children’s welfare. Case study research was carried out with a small cohort of women with children who had experienced detention during their claim for asylum. Data were analysed thematically. The detention of women and their children who seek asylum is detrimental to mental and physical health and has long term implications for individuals and families. Detention was arbitrary and there was no evidence of the application of gender-sensitive guidelines. Principles of gender-sensitivity are important but when subsumed by politically expedient processes can seem little more than a cosmetic gesture towards women’s and children’s rights. The authors argue that immigration policy itself should be subject to impact assessments for its implications for women and children.


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