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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 16:35 GMT
McConnell defiant in asylum row
Jack McConnell and Tony McNulty
Mr McConnell had talks with Home Office Minister Tony McNulty
A row over the treatment of families of failed asylum seekers has been dismissed as "ridiculous party politics" by the first minister.

Jack McConnell said that discussions with the Home Office about how families were deported had been positive.

He said his main concern was the way in which the children of failed asylum seekers were treated.

The first minister said measures would be put in place to ensure that all cases were "handled more sensitively".

Campaigners have protested about tactics employed during dawn raids on failed asylum seekers and their families.

Youngsters at Drumchapel High lobbied the first minister after the Vucaj family, whose children had attended that school, were deported from Glasgow.

One 15-year-old Drumchapel High student, Amal Azzudin, said she was ashamed of Mr McConnell after talks with the Home Office, which has responsibility for immigration, did not bring an end to dawn raids.

People do have to understand that enforced returns are in part because there is resistance to going back voluntarily
Tony McNulty
UK Immigration Minister

Mr McConnell said that concerns about the way in which some raids had been carried out had been raised with the Home Office.

He said: "Home Office ministers know, as every ordinary person in Scotland knows, there has to be a system of immigration and asylum in this country and sometimes that will mean people have to leave the country without that being voluntary.

"It would be far better if everyone left voluntarily but our objective is to ensure that where young children have been in Scottish schools and have developed friendships and relationships, then the education and the social services that back them up are engaged in those final decisions.

"That seems to me to be an eminently sensible approach that we have taken and it did have unanimous support in the parliament back in September."

Mr McConnell attacked opposition politicians, saying: "It's a pity this week that some have chosen to make a very petty party political issue out of this, they should be ashamed of themselves.

"It's not going to deflect us from the important work we have to do on behalf of those children."

Asylum system

Mr McConnell has had talks with UK Immigration Minister Tony McNulty, who said he too would prefer it if failed asylum seekers left voluntarily.

Mr McNulty said: "People do have to understand that enforced returns are in part because there is resistance to going back voluntarily.

"But you must have a robust asylum system and that includes fully looking after refugees, integrating them when they are successful in the system.

"But it does mean removals on the other side and we are working very closely to see that can be done in the most appropriate and efficient way possible, taking into account the children issues and a whole range of other issues."

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