Church of Scotland opposes detention of children

The Church objects in `strongest possible terms’




17th December 2009: Border and Immigration minister Phil Woolas’ comments on locking children up in removal homes was for their own safety has resulted in a sharp reaction from the Church of Scotland.


Objecting in “the strongest possible terms” to Woolas’ “ill-advised and inhumane words”, the Convener, Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland, Ian Galloway, has asserted the Church remains opposed, without qualification, to the detention of children.


Woolas had asserted the horrible reality of the modern world was failed asylum-seekers and their families were required to be kept under lock and key to discourage human trafficking.


He had added any attempts against doing so would only encourage traffickers; and would send a signal that the UK was a soft touch on immigration. The closure of the centre would be immediately noticed by traffickers luring people to enter Britain.


The Convener has questioned does he really believe the only way to show that the UK was not seen as a soft touch on immigration was to lock up children in centres such as Dungavel? These were the words of a desperate politician, the Convener asserted.


He also expressed his belief that the sign of a nation’s values was seen most clearly in how it treated those in need especially in the way it expressed hospitality to unannounced strangers arriving because they had nowhere to go. That was not the same as being seen as a soft touch.


Describing the locking up of 109 children in Dungavel in a year as “a national disgrace”, he said when they children were most in need it added injury to insult to detain them and lock them away from the people who knew and cared for them.


Woolas had made the statement soon after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg had sought the scrapping of the controversial asylum policy on detaining children in removal homes.


Launching an attack on the policy, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s failure to get it scrapped, Clegg had earlier it would see hundreds of innocent children spend Christmas behind bars. How could the Government justify “state sponsored cruelty”? Clegg had questioned.


In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Clegg had asked him to initiate immediate steps for terminating the policy of locking up the children of families facing possible deportation.


The letter came soon after the Scottish National Party’s call for an end to the detention of children in the removal homes was backed by the Commons committee.


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