In a strongly worded letter published in today's "Herald" newspaper Bishop John Mone, President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland's Justice and Peace Commission called on Scotland's First minister Jack McConnell to defend or denounce the Dungavel Detention Centre's "Family Unit".
Bishop Mone concludes:
"We urgently require a quicker and fairer system of assessment of political refugees. A system that respects their human and civil rights and does not bring shame on our country."
The full text of the letter is shown below.
Two years ago in the wake of the murder of Firsat Dag a 22-year-old asylum seeker living in Glasgow I called on the people of Scotland to welcome "the strangers in our midst" and to see migrants as an enrichment to our society rather than a challenge to our stability.
While the debate on asylum seekers and their detention has continued the attitude within government, seems sadly to have remained unchanged. The right to political asylum is enshrined in treaties to which Britain is a signatory. Our Government, at local and national level, has a moral and legal obligation to welcome and protect those in need of asylum. As citizens we share these obligations.
All the available evidence suggests our obligations are not being met. The demand for fundamental change to NASS (National Asylum Support Service) prompted David Blunkett earlier this year to charge immigration minister Beverly Hughes with improving its poor performance. Yet in July a confidential report to government ministers on the service, highlighted; "poor management", "confused practices and procedures" and "basic errors in processing applicants".
Meanwhile, most Scots will feel only shame at the iniquitous regime in the now notorious Dungavel Detention CentreÃ‚ ¹s "Family Unit". In August I wrote to Jack McConnell urging him to condemn the disgraceful detention of children in our country and asking him to join with me in calling for the closure of the "Family Unit". Almost three weeks have passed with little more than an acknowledgement of that plea.
Our First Minister must have a view on this subject. I call on him in a spirit of openness to make it known, without recourse to the buck passing between Edinburgh and Westminster in which this debate has previously become mired.
We urgently require a quicker and fairer system of assessment of political refugees. A system that respects their human and civil rights and does not bring shame on our country. I continue to pray that Scotland will become a society which recognises the stranger among us as a fellow citizen and an example of our multi cultural, multi racial and multi religious society.
Bishop of Paisley
President of the Catholic BishopsÃ‚ ¹ Justice and Peace Commission.