Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

MSP makes plea over asylum family's Dungavel detention

Florence Mhango
Florence Mhango and her daughter are being held at Dungavel

A Glasgow MSP has written to the UK Immigration Minister to complain about the detention of an asylum seeker and her daughter at Dungavel, Lanarkshire.

Florence and Precious Mhango, 10, from Malawi, were taken to the controversial detention centre after attending a routine immigration meeting.

The mother and daughter, who have been in the UK for more than six years, are due to be deported on Monday.

Anne McLaughlin MSP said the child faced harm if she returned to Malawi.

The SNP politician has written to Phil Woolas urging him to release the family on humanitarian grounds.

She claimed the mother and daughter were likely to be separated on their return to Africa, with Precious being taken to live with her father and at risk of possible female genital mutilation.

The UK Border Agency said the decision to detain a family before removal only happened as a last resort.

Ms McLaughlin said: "This is an extremely distressing case. There is no cause for this detention or deportation.

Florence and Precious were well-known, very popular and really played an active role in this community
Sam Paterson
Cranhill Community Project

"This girl has been educated entirely in the UK, she has taken an English name, and knows only Scottish and English culture.

"She is well integrated in Glasgow - doing well in her education, joining the local church and making friends in the community.

She added: "This is not just a case of stopping the detention of a child in Dungavel, it is a case of stopping the deportation of a child to a situation where she may be at risk of harm."

The MSP has also asked the Scottish government to intervene and plead the family's case with the Home Office.

Precious Mhango is a pupil at St Maria Goretti Primary in Glasgow and she and her mother were actively involved in the Cranhilll Community Project.

'Heartbreaking story'

The family have been held at Dungavel on a previous occasion and during her time there the 10-year-old wrote a short story about her experience, called Detention Day (D-Day).

Community development worker Sam Paterson said: "The story is heartbreaking. One woman who read it this morning was reduced to tears.

"Everyone is shocked and outraged by this.

Precious Mhango
Precious Mhango has lived in the UK since she was four-years-old

"Florence and Precious were well-known, very popular and really played an active role in this community."

He added: "I spoke to Florence this morning and she is devastated, but trying to stay calm for her daughter's sake.

"Precious is 10-years-old so she knows what is going on and is scared about what lies ahead."

"Keeping them at Dungavel is like a form of torture."

It is understood the family is due to be moved to another detention centre south of the border over the weekend then flown to Malawi on Monday.

Linda Dempster, deputy director of the UK Border Agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland said: "We would much rather that a family whom our courts have found do not qualify for asylum or for humanitarian protection leave the UK voluntarily.

"Where they refuse to do so, despite being given every opportunity, it is our responsibility to enforce the decisions of the courts and send them home.

"The decision to detain a family before removal only happens as a last resort, because the parents refuse to take the opportunity to go home under their own steam with assistance from the Home Office and the International Organisation for Migration."

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