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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 13:41 GMT
Henry in failed asylum cases plea
Dawn raid protest
Campaigners have called for an end to dawn raids
The Scottish Executive is to urge the Home Office to adopt a "sensible and pragmatic" approach to failed asylum seeker cases involving children.

Education Minister Hugh Henry wants officials to consider the fact that many children involved have been brought up and educated in Scotland.

A forthcoming review is to look at the cases of more than 1,000 failed asylum seekers in Scotland.

Mr Henry's approach to "legacy cases" has been welcomed by campaigners.

In a letter to the conveners of the Scottish Parliament's education and communities committees, Mr Henry said he would urge officials to consider that many children involved in the cases have laid down roots in Scotland.

Many of the children involved were born here or are well integrated into and contribute positively within local schools and communities
Hugh Henry
Education Minister

The minister said: "This 'legacy review' here in Scotland will involve a reassessment by Home Office staff of around 1,100 cases to determine whether those seeking asylum are able to stay.

"Many of the children involved were born here or are well integrated into and contribute positively within local schools and communities.

"We will urge the Home Office to take a sensible and pragmatic approach to reviewing their cases."

The 1,100 rejected asylum cases in Scotland represent 4,000 people who have no legal right to remain in the UK.

The minister's intervention emerged a day after a group of pupils from Drumchapel High School, known as the Glasgow Girls, renewed their calls to end dawn raids and the detention of failed asylum seekers.

Margaret Woods, of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, said the families involved in the "legacy cases" faced a constant fear of deportation.

"They are cases of families who have been here for many years - anything up to six-and-a-half to seven years," she said.

Glasgow Girls
The Glasgow Girls Agnesa Murselaj, Amal Azzudin and Roza Salih

"Some of the older children have spent their entire education in 'English' in Scottish schools and many of them are doing exams now."

Mrs Woods said the refusal of asylum in many of the older cases amounted to "very bad decisions" which ignored the advice of human rights organisations.

There has been cross-party support for the move.

Scottish National Party education spokeswoman, Fiona Hyslop, said: "Ministers must now ensure that they follow through with this important commitment and do not allow themselves to be deflected as has happened several times in the past.

"This issue is too important to be just a pre-election stunt."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen said: "The UK Government should be doing more to respond to the plight of vulnerable children.

"Of course we need a robust asylum system to deal with those who are not entitled to stay in the UK, but it is unacceptable to penalise young people for government delays."

Bill Aitken MSP
We've got to have a system whereby these applications are dealt with much quicker,
Bill Aitken
Scottish Conservatives

Green MSP Patrick Harvie welcomed Mr Henry's letter.

"It's been a long time coming - the executive actually taking a stand on this," he said.

"For so long they said 'this is a Westminster matter nothing to do with us'.

"I hope we hear some positive words from Hugh Henry's colleagues in the Westminster government down south because they are going to have to make the decision."

However, Conservative MSP Bill Aitken said the backlog of cases should never have been allowed to build up in the first place.

"We've got to have a system whereby these applications are dealt with much quicker," he said.

"We can't have a situation where kids are here for four or five years and then kicked out."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Drumchapel High School pupils lobbied the executive



SEE ALSO
Fire protest asylum seeker dies
19 Mar 07 |  Glasgow and West
Maimed by teenage 'racist' gang
04 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Asylum seekers targeted by gangs
05 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Hardly an asylum seeker haven?
04 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Nicol Stephen condemns dawn raids
01 Feb 07 |  Scotland
Asylum chief's service concerns
01 Feb 07 |  Scotland

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