UNITY Centre Glasgow Press Release:
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UNITY calls for an immediate moratorium on the detention of all children by the UK Border Agency and not just the end of detention of children in Scotland.
Today members of the organising committee of "UNITY, the Union of Asylum Seekers in Scotland" called for an immediate moratorium on the detention of children anywhere in the UK.
The committee elected earlier this year by a mass meeting of asylum seekers in Red Road, following the deaths of three asylum seekers, put out this call in response to the announcement by Immigration Minister Damian Green earlier yesterday that the detention of children in the Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire is going to end.
Whilst the Unity committee are pleased to see that the issue of child detention is being treated seriously by the new government we cannot understand why there has to be a delay of two or three months for a review to be carried out. This seems to be the worst situation for the children of asylum seekers as little 1 year old Wania Shebaz found out to her misfortune earlier this week when she became the first child to be detained in Scotland following announcements that child detention was going to be stopped.
If it is wrong to detain a child in three months time it must surely be wrong to detain a child now?
In the last three months of 2009, 285 children under the age of 18 of whom 180 were asylum seekers were detained by the UK Border Agency.
Will another 285 children be detained in Yarl's Wood in the three months it takes for a review to be held?
Earlier this year Ann Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons stated that over half of the children held in detention were released. 68 of the children had been held in the centre for more than a month and one, a baby, had been held for 100 days.
In our experience of helping families in detention for over four years we have repeatedly found that many families go on to win Leave to Remain in the UK if they manage to get out of detention. It would be wrong for anyone to think that the Home Office do not make any mistakes when they detain families.
Ending detention of children in Dungavel is not enough and will make it worse for those families detained, in the future, in Scotland.
The announcement that children will no longer be detained in Scotland does not give us much to celebrate either. In fact without an end to detention of children in England this step will actually make things worse for asylum seekers living in Scotland.
Instead of being given 72 hours for their Scottish lawyers to help them while they are kept in Dungavel, as is the current practice, asylum seeker families in Scotland could now face being driven 400 miles away from friends, family, neighbours, supporters and, most importantly, their Scottish lawyers.
If the family is taken directly to detention centres at Yarl's Wood or Tinsley House in England instead of the Dungavel detention centre, Scottish lawyers will not be able to help them as a completely different legal system exists there.
At this most crucial period of time when the family will be facing a major crisis and will need all the help they can get, instead of relying on lawyers who they know, trust, and who are familiar with the family's case, the family will be forced to look for a new lawyer in a different country, not knowing which solicitor they can trust.
Therefore not only will the new policy announced today mean that if children are detained in Scotland they will now face a long and traumatic journey in a private prison van away from friends and family but that the family will not be able to access the crucial legal help they need at one of the most dangerous periods of their asylum case.
We therefore, on behalf of all asylum seekers in Scotland, call for an immediate moratorium on the practice of detaining children anywhere in the UK. Ending detention of children in Dungavel is not enough and will make it worse for those families detained in the future in Scotland.
End of Statement
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