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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 January, 2004, 11:36 GMT
Bishop in fresh Dungavel appeal
The centre was a prison before housing asylum seekers
A Catholic bishop has renewed his appeal against the detention of the children of asylum seekers in Dungavel detention centre.

Bishop John Mone said that holding children in prison-like conditions "shamed the people of this country".

The Bishop of Paisley is also president of the Catholic Church's justice and peace commission.

He said he wanted Home Secretary David Blunkett to find more humane ways of dealing with families.

'Heartless solution'

Mr Blunkett has come under fierce criticism for the detention of refugees and their children at the facility.

The Home Office insist the families must be kept in secure accommodation to stop them absconding before their cases are heard.

But Bishop Mone spoke out again over the treatment of children held in the South Lanarkshire centre as he delivered his message for the Scottish Day of Prayer and Peace.

"During the last year I publicly criticised the so-called family unit in Dungavel prison and detention of children in Dungavel prison," he said.

"While we recognise that people may differ on the general policy for asylum seekers in our country, we have to say that, as regards children, this heartless solution shames the people of this country.

"I believe that what is happening at Dungavel is contrary to international law as expressed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child and in the European Convention on Human Rights."

Dungavel is set to expand despite calls for its closure
The recent case of the Kurdish Ay family highlighted the plight of children held at the facility.

Earlier this year Bishop Mone handed over to the home secretary a 21,089-signature petition against the detention of families with young children at the former jail.

He added: "I take this opportunity of thanking the thousands of people who signed the petition to release the children and give them back their freedom and their childhood.

"Your signature did count because it gave a voice to these voiceless children.

"The home secretary was impressed by this volume of protest but unfortunately chose not to listen."

Only last month the Home Office announced that planning permission had been granted to add 44 beds to the centre, which would boost its capacity by a quarter.

But it said these would be only be used to house adult males and no final decision had been reached.

The centre at Strathaven currently holds 150 men, women and children but the extension will add another block and bring the capacity to almost 200.

The Scottish Socialist Party said Dungavel - "Scotland's Guantanamo Bay" - should be shut, while the SNP said Labour was "deeply embarrassed" by its asylum policy.

'BNP' warning over asylum policy
24 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Dungavel to house more immigrants
23 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Home Office rejects Dungavel appeal
16 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Child detention centre plea
10 Dec 03  |  Scotland
MSPs seek Dungavel legal advice
01 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Executive 'failed' Ay family
07 Aug 03  |  Scotland

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