Failed asylum seekers have won the right to claim damages which could run into thousands of pounds after the High Court ruled three young children were held at an immigration detention centre unlawfully.The ruling was a legal victory for the mothers - Reetha Suppiah, 37, a Malaysian nurse, and Sakinat Bello, 25, a Nigerian national - who brought the legal challenge.
Both said a lack of safeguards at Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, the UK's main removal centre for women and minors, led to their children suffering distress and trauma.
Mr Justice Wyn Williams, sitting in London, ruled the Government's current policy on detaining families with children pending deportation was not unlawful, but - in Tuesday's cases - it had not been applied by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) "with the rigour it deserves".
As a result "the claimants were detained unlawfully from the time they were taken into custody until their release" and they were entitled to claim damages.
The judge said: "The cases of the two families involved in this litigation provide good examples of the failure by UKBA to apply important aspects of the policy, both when the decisions were taken to detain each family and when decisions were taken to maintain detention after removal directions had been cancelled."
The judge declared the families' rights to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been breached, along with their Article 5 right to liberty.
But he rejected claims that their right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment had been infringed.
The mothers' application for judicial review was heard last October but judgment was not given until Tuesday.
In December, following a lengthy review, the Government announced the immediate closure of the family section at Yarl's Wood.