Page last updated at 00:06 GMT, Sunday, 1 November 2009

Hundred children held at Dungavel

Dungavel Detention Centre
UK ministers said children were routinely held at Dungavel for 72 hours

A total of 103 children were held at the Dungavel immigration removal centre in Lanarkshire over the past year.

Figures obtained by the SNP MP Pete Wishart suggest they were among 1,315 children detained across the UK, with nearly 900 held for more than 28 days.

Mr Wishart said the numbers were "deeply disturbing" and called on the UK government to end the practice.

UK Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the welfare of children at such centres was taken seriously.

The Scottish government is opposed to the detention of children at Dungavel, but immigration is a matter reserved to Westminster.

'Simply wrong'

Scotland's churches and former Children's Commissioner Kathleen Marshall have criticised the practice, arguing it is against the children's welfare.

A pilot scheme is currently running in Glasgow whereby up to five families awaiting deportation are housed in former council flats, under a partnership between the council, the Scottish government and the UK Borders Agency.

Figures released by the Home Office, in response to a parliamentary question by Mr Wishart, revealed:

  • 103 children were detained at Dungavel from October 2008 - September 2009
  • 884 children were detained at Yarls Wood removal centre in Bedfordshire from July 2008 - July 2009
  • 328 children were detained at Tinsley House centre, Sussex, from September 2008 - August 2009

Mr Wishart said: "Detaining children in centres made for adults is simply wrong.

"Whatever the position of the parents, children should not be detained behind barbed wire.

Pete Wishart
The figures were released in response to Pete Wishart's questions

"That 103 children have been held in Scotland - where the Scottish government is firmly against child detention - is deeply disturbing. It's time for the UK Government to end this practice."

It was also revealed that a total of 889 children from 488 families had been detained for more than 28 days, something that must be authorised by ministers.

Mr Woolas said it was possible that some children had been counted more than once in the figures, as they were moved between removal centres.

He said Dungavel and Tinsley House routinely accommodate family groups for about 72 hours. Where detention is likely to extend beyond that time, families are transferred to Yarls Wood where facilities support longer detention.

He said: "The welfare of children is an issue I take very seriously. The UK Border Agency is introducing the Duty of Care to children through the Borders, Citizenship and Immigrations Bill."

He said children were only detained as a last resort, and efforts were under way to improve statistics on their numbers.

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