Monday, 31 August 2009





The UK Government is under fire after the Home Office revealed that hundreds of children are being held unnecessarily in immigration detention centres. While Ministers would not reveal the length of detention, it provided a ‘snapshot’ picture of those held on a single day (30 June 2009) when 470 minors were being detained.

SNP Home Affairs spokesperson Pete Wishart MP has written to Immigration Minister Phil Woolas demanding a full breakdown of the number of child detentions, including the length of incarceration in each case. Mr Wishart expressed anger that a written parliamentary question answered last week (25 Aug) said figures on child detentions could not be provided – yet officials were able to provide a snapshot figure for 30 June rubbishing claims figures could not be provided.

The continued detention of children at immigration centres, including Dungavel, comes despite assurances given by the Scottish Secretary in October 2008 that detention of children would stop.

Mr Wishart said:

“It has never been right to detain a child behind barbed-wire in immigration centres and these official figures reveal why Ministers are trying so hard to hide the scale of child detentions.

“This snapshot reveals how many children were locked up on a given day, but is does not tell us for how long, or whether that number was typical, low or high. Neither do these figures tell us what the effects of detention are on children in terms of their health and wellbeing - it is not uncommon for children to suffer from post-traumatic stress after their release.

“Just last week I received a response to a written parliamentary question telling me that figures were not available on the number of children detained – that is clearly untrue as this briefing to the press by officials underlines. The Minister himself has to sign the authorisation for children detained longer than 28 days, so to say this information cannot be collated is a nonsense. This information is in the public interest, and it must be provided. It is not credible to maintain that the information is unavailable or too expensive to provide.

“Last October the Scottish Secretary said that detentions would end – they have not – and UK Ministers must explain why children are still being locked up by a Labour government.

“The SNP has had a long-standing commitment to ending this practice and has repeatedly called on the UK Government to act - not only in practice but in law through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Report from 2008;;

Pilot of alternative to detention for Dungavel children

23 Oct 2008

Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy revealed today that a pilot scheme offering an alternative to the detention of children of failed asylum seekers at Dungavel prior to removal could be up and running by the start of the new year.

Negotiations between the UK Border Agency and Glasgow City Council over final details continue, but the principle is that failed asylum seekers awaiting removal would be housed in former council houses in Glasgow instead of at the South Lanarkshire removal centre, with access to basic amenities, before being sent back to their country of origin.

Jim Murphy said: "This is a trial based on the concerns raised in particular by churches in Scotland.

"As Secretary of State for Scotland, one of the first things I did was to see whether we can bring this process forward. I would hope to be able for it to be actually launched at the start of the new year."

He added: "I want to see if we can do something that is sensible, but also sensitive, that looks after the children. The truth is that no politician of any party would ever like to see families being put behind the barbed wire in Dungavel, but the worry in the past has been that if they weren't behind barbed wire and walls at Dungavel then they abscond. Now, on a pilot basis, we're trying to do it differently."

The Scottish Secretary said the families involved would be vetted carefully to assess the threat of them absconding.

"The intention is to prepare families for returning to the country which they came from on a voluntary basis. I think most fair-minded people in Scotland would say that where there's a genuine threat of them absconding, then living in a flat in Glasgow isn't the right solution. But what we've got to do is look at the families, particularly those with younger children, and to see whether we can keep the families together in a home in a supervised way and prepare them for going home."

No comments: