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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Dungavel unit closure demanded
Dungavel
Dungavel was opened as a detention centre in September 2001
A Catholic Bishop has demanded the closure of the family unit at the Dungavel Detention Centre for asylum seekers during a meeting with Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Bishop John Mone handed over a petition signed by more than 21,000 people on Wednesday.

The church has mounted a Scotland-wide campaign against the detention of asylum seekers' children at the Lanarkshire facility.

Dungavel opened as a holding centre for asylum seekers in September 2001.

It is thought that children account for about a quarter of the 80 people currently detained at the centre.

Confident of progress

This has outraged MSPs, human rights groups and church leaders, who have branded the practice inhumane.

Bishop Mone, the president of the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission, met with Mr Blunkett in London.

The Bishop of Paisley handed over a petition and demanded the immediate closure of the family unit at Dungavel.

He told BBC Scotland before the meeting that he was confident of making progress.

It is about giving them back their God-given right to have human dignity, their childhood and their freedom
Bishop John Mone
"The very fact that David Blunkett has agreed to meet me is a sign," he said.

"He did say in a letter to me on 28 March that he was prepared to look at what more can be done.

"Nothing has happened, so I really want to challenge him on that and ask what is happening."

Bishop Mone first wrote to Mr Blunkett seeking a meeting in March after a visit to Dungavel.

He said he had called for the closure of the family unit at Dungavel "because I think it shames all of us in Scotland" and the children being held in the centre were "very very depressed".

Prison conditions

Bishop Mone said he would be calling for the closure of all family units in UK detention centres.

He argued that they breached the UN Convention on Human Rights of the Child because youngsters were being kept in prison conditions.

"It is not about bringing in more technology and more teachers," he said.

"It is not giving them more, it is about giving them back their God-given right to have human dignity, their childhood and their freedom."

A report on the detention centre by the chief inspector of prisons is due to be published next month.


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