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`Detaining children is for their own safety’

Let them loose, and find bodies in lorries: Woolas

16 December 2009: A day after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg sought the scrapping of the controversial asylum policy on detaining children in removal homes, the government has reacted by saying locking them up was for their own safety.

The Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said closing down Dungavel detention centre to families and children would result in bodies in lorries in Calais, as it would give a boost to the human trafficking.

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

He 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.

Woolas said not to use the detention centres would result in more suffering and the asylum system losing credibility. He added failed asylum-seekers were housed at secure centres because past experience showed they absconded, if left in the community.

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.

In counter attack of sorts, Woolas said the SNP was plugging the skills gap in Scotland by boosting immigration, though the government’s focus should be on improving the skills of the Scottish-based workforce.

Woolas asserted if the Scots were so concerned about the fate of immigrants coming to the UK, more Scottish local authorities should offer to house asylum-seekers. The SNP ministers had to take account of the consequences of the stance.

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