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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 July, 2004, 08:11 GMT 09:11 UK
Blunkett approval for Dungavel
Conditions are "satisfactory" according to David Blunkett
Home Secretary David Blunkett has visited the Dungavel immigration centre and described conditions there as "entirely satisfactory".

Following a private tour of the South Lanarkshire centre, Mr Blunkett said the UK Government did not treat the detention of families lightly.

Mr Blunkett also praised the "dedicated and caring staff" at the former prison.

He said: "I made a commitment that I would visit Dungavel Removal Centre and see it for myself."

"I have done that today and I am satisfied that the conditions there are entirely satisfactory.

"I would also like to praise the dedicated and caring staff who do a good job under difficult circumstances."

We do regrettably have to detain some families with children, usually just prior to their removal from the UK
David Blunkett

Mr Blunkett said the detention of families was regrettable but necessary in order to run an efficient immigration system.

Families were held at Dungavel for an average of 11 days and there had been three children at the centre during his visit, he went on.

"The vast majority of the detainees in Dungavel are adults who are awaiting removal," he said.

"But, in order to maintain an effective immigration system, on occasions we do regrettably also have to detain some families with children, usually just prior to their removal from the UK.

"We do not detain families lightly and in the UK, families are on average detained at present for less than 11 days.

"When I visited Dungavel on Friday there were just three children in detention."

'Safe, caring environment'

Mr Blunkett also said there was "a considerable amount" of inspection at the centre, citing visits by the local independent monitoring board and Immigration Minister Des Browne.

The Chief Inspector for Prisons, Anne Owers, the Children's Commissioner for Scotland, Kathleen Marshall, and members of the Home Affairs Select Committee, had also toured the centre, he added.

Mr Blunkett said Ms Owers had found Dungavel to be "a safe, caring and respectful environment for detainees" in a report following her inspection.

I can't believe for one minute he [Mr Blunkett] has any understanding of what really goes on there
Rosie Kane MSP

However Scottish Socialist MSP Rosie Kane, a known critic of the centre, said: "As much as I welcome a visit by David Blunkett to Dungavel, I can't believe for one minute he has any understanding of what really goes on there.

"He needs to come with me on my visits and help mop up the tears from the terrified people locked up there who don't have any legal representation.

"He needs to speak to the hungry, distressed children there who are refused food out of hours and have to watch their mother's be taken to hospital in handcuffs."

Another long-standing critic of Dungavel, Glasgow-based human rights lawyer, Aamer Anwar, claimed Mr Blunkett was guilty of human rights abuses.

Mr Anwar said: "I think it's an absolute disgrace, he has no compassion or humanity.

"To say there's no problem with locking up men, women and children behind barbed wire who have committed no crime in what is supposedly a democratic country is an outrage.

"He is guilty of human rights abuses and the fact that he had to slip in to Dungavel on the quiet because he knows there would be mass outcry and demonstrations if he made a public visit is a damning indictment of this Labour Government's immigration policies."

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