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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 12:54 GMT
Child detention centre plea
Dungavel detention centre
Children held at Dungavel is a contentious issue
Human rights charities have repeated their call for the Scottish Executive to seek the release of children being held at the Dungavel detention centre.

The charities said holding children at the immigration centre in Lanarkshire was wrong and releasing them would be the best Christmas gift.

First Minister Jack McConnell is being urged to discuss the move with the Home Office.

Eight children are currently being held with their families at Dungavel.

The centre houses failed asylum seekers and their families prior to their deportation.

A spokesman for Mr McConnell said he would write to the charities but stressed that they would have to take up the issue with the Home Office.

The Home Office stressed that detention happens in a very small number of cases and can be for a short period of time.

The campaign is being led by Positive Action in Housing and is supported by churches and charities.

First Minister Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell said Dungavel is reserved to the Home Office
It claims it is a scandal that children of asylum seekers are being locked up inside a Category B prison surrounded by 20ft steel fences.

The Scottish Executive has responsibility for education but the Home Office looks after asylum.

In September, MSPs voted against the round-the-clock detention of children at Dungavel but the executive has maintained that the centre is a matter reserved to Westminster.

Campaigners have condemned the policy as immoral and a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A Home Office spokesman said: "It is clearly regrettable that some families with children have to be detained.

"This is not a decision taken lightly and detention is always kept to the minimum period necessary.

"Detention happens in only a very small number of cases and the vast majority of those that are detained will be held for very short periods, often of just a few days, and very often just prior to their removal from the UK."

Scottish National Party Euro MP Professor Neil MacCormick has asked Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe, to investigate the detention of the children.

Three asylum seekers staged a rooftop protest at Dungavel earlier this month.

Dungavel at centre of protest
02 Dec 03  |  Scotland
MSPs seek Dungavel legal advice
01 Oct 03  |  Scotland
SNP seeks asylum intervention
22 Sep 03  |  Scotland

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