Politicians are demanding a full investigation be carried out by the UK Government into reports children are being held in a Scottish detention centre – despite the practice being outlawed.
At least 21 under-18s were held at the Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre in South Lanarkshire between 2010 and 2018, according to figures obtained by BBC Scotland’s The Nine.
That is despite then-immigration minister Damian Green announcing in 2010 that the UK Government was “committed to ending the detention of all children for immigration purposes”.
Official figures showed that between June 2010 and January 2014 two children were held at Dungavel, the BBC reported.
And a Freedom of Information request was reported to have revealed 19 young people were held between 2014 and 2018 – including at least five who were aged 16 or under.
SNP MSP Linda Fabiani criticised the practice: “This is the harsh reality of the Tories ‘hostile environment’ – children and pregnant women held in what is effectively a private prison.
“The UK is the only country in the EU which has no cap on the length of time somebody can be detained under immigration powers. Innocent families, women and children shouldn’t be held like this for months on end, especially almost a decade after the Home Office promised to end the practice of detaining children.”
The Dungavel centre is in Ms Fabiani’s East Kilbride constituency.
“The UK Government must urgently stop detaining children and pregnant women at Dungavel – a facility entirely unsuitable for people in such a vulnerable position,” she demanded.
“This only goes to show the total disregard the Tory Government shows towards migrants – and the need for Scotland to have full control over these powers.”
Labour equalities spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said reports of children being housed in Dungavel were “extremely distrubing”.
She said she will press Home Secretary Sajid Javid on the issue, adding it was now nearly 10 years since “the disgraceful practice of detaining children at Dungavel was supposed to have stopped”.
She said: “This is why I have consistently called on the Home Office to allow MSPs visiting access to Dungavel, to increase transparency and ensure that this is no longer happening.
“I will be writing again to the Home Secretary to demand a full investigation, and reassurances that the practice of detaining children will be ended immediately.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We ended the routine detention of children for immigration purposes in 2010, and fundamentally changed the system to ensure that the welfare of the child is at the heart of every decision we make.”