The detention of asylum seeking children has “no justification”,
according to an influential group of cross-party MSPs,
writes Reg McKay.
The Scottish parliament’s cross-party group on refugees
and asylum seekers, accompanied by representatives of Amnesty and
the Scottish Refugee Council, made their hard-hitting comments
after a visit to Dungavel, the country’s only detention
centre for asylum seekers. The delegation’s visit came after
Dungavel had witnessed a hunger strike by some 40 asylum seekers,
and two attempted suicides in recent weeks.
Prior to the visit, the group’s chairperson Shona Robinson
had expressed concern that some of the asylum seekers they asked to
meet had been moved with no explanation. Of a major concern to the
group was the children’s limited access to education,
restricted movements within the centre and the organisation of
Dungavel as a prison.
Robinson said: “Dungavel is not an appropriate place for
families. The risk of absconding does not outweigh the damage of
being denied their freedom.”
The group has called for families with children to be based in
the community with reporting restrictions if considered necessary.
Also, hitting out at the “prison regime” of Dungavel, the group
called for social work and other welfare agencies to be responsible
for supporting children while they resided in the detention
The MSPs were also alarmed that asylum seekers had lived in the
community for many months before being moved into detention without
explanation. Following the harrowing experiences these people had
in the country of origin, this process, delays in decision making
and the lack of communication, were considered to be detrimental to
the adults’ mental health.
In their report to the home office, the MSPs were concerned
about sudden, unexplained movements of asylum seekers often at
night. A home office spokesperson said that asylum seekers often
needed to be moved to London because of the lack of direct flights
from Scotland when they were being returned to their country of
In their hard-hitting report, which outlines 10 areas of major
concern, the MSPs wrote: “A more pro-active position must be taken
to ensure detainees have access to all relevant information as soon