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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK
Showdown over Dungavel children
Kathleen Marshall
Professor Marshall will discuss the detention of children
The Home Office has been asked to explain its policies on holding young people at the Dungavel Immigration Detention Centre in Lanarkshire.

Scotland's Commissioner for Children Professor Kathleen Marshall met the Immigration Minister, Des Browne.

There appears to be official confusion over whether the welfare of detained children is the responsibility of the Scottish or Westminster parliaments.

Children have been held at Dungavel with their parents in past cases.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has previously stated that the detention of families is regrettable but necessary in order to run an efficient immigration system.

No children are currently being held in the former prison.

Our view is that where it is necessary to detain a family, it is in the best interests of the child to be detained as part of the family group
Des Browne
Home Office minister
After the meeting, Ms Marshall, said: "We had an open and constructive discussion and I received answers to some of my questions and a fuller response has been promised.

"I believe the meeting has helped to identify some issues to take forward but we covered a lot of ground and both need time to digest and reflect on what was talked about.

"I hope we can move forward in a co-operative manner."

International law

Earlier, Professor Marshall told BBC Radio Scotland: "I want to use this meeting to explain what my role is. There is sometimes confusion about the devolved and reserved matters and I'm very clear about what my role is with regard to these children.

"Also, it is always against the welfare of children to be detained and it is precisely because of that that international law sets such high standards about criteria for detention and procedures.

"I have concerns about whether these are being met and I want to ask questions about it."

Dungavel has been the scene of protests
Professor Marshall added: "Immigration may well be a reserved issue, but the children aren't.

"My job is to promote and safeguard the rights of all children and people in Scotland.

"I find the whole idea of the detention of children very distasteful."

The issue came to a head with the Ay family, who were held there for more than a year during which time the three Kurdish children were unable to attend school.

In a report, the English Prisons Inspector said that children at Dungavel were being damaged by being denied the right to attend local schools.

'Best interests'

Mr Browne, who is the MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, said there had been no change in the UK Government's policy on detaining children in Dungavel.

However he told BBC Radio Scotland that the government was striving to minimise the number of children there.

Mr Browne said: "Unfortunately the detention of failed asylum seekers or illegal immigrants is a necessity.

"Our view is that where it is necessary to detain a family, it is in the best interests of the child to be detained as part of the family group.

"There are no families at Dungavel at present but if it is necessary for us to have children there in future, we will have."

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15 Aug 03  |  Scotland

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