Catholic Bishop speaks out on detention of asylum seekers children
Speaking following a visit to Dungavel Removal Centre near Strathaven, Bishop John Mone, Bishop of Paisley and President of the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission has described the detention of children in a prison environment as "a disgrace" and "unacceptable".
Bishop Mone has called on the Home Secretary to close the 'Family Unit' at Dungavel and find a "more humane way" of dealing with asylum seekers and their families.
The full text of his statement is shown below. In August 2001 Bishop Mone called on Scots to view asylum seekers, "as an enrichment to our society not a challenge to our stability." The full text of his previous statement is available at: http://www.scmo.org
Bishop Mone is writing to Home Secretary, David Blunket MP, and to all MP's and MSP's in the Diocese of Paisley alerting them to his concerns.
VISIT OF BISHOP JOHN MONE TO DUNGAVEL REMOVAL CENTRE
This is Wednesday 12th March 2003 and I have just visited the "Immigration Removal Centre" at Dungavel near Strathaven in my role as President of the Scottish Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
I was appalled to meet so many young children of school age and I am deeply concerned for them. In some cases they told me they have been detained in this former prison for as much as eight months.
Regardless of the differing opinions in the current debate about dealing with asylum seekers, it is a disgrace that children are being detained in a prison environment behind security fences and barbed wire with their freedom severely curtailed.
What is happening is quite unacceptable. You cannot just lock children up like this. One of them had tears in her eyes as she asked me "Why are we in prison, we have done nothing wrong?" I did not have an answer.
Protecting children has been high on the agenda of our people in recent times and to ignore what is going on at Dungavel shames us all.
The treatment of these children is a long way from the Rights of the Child as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
I simply give an example of ARTICLES 28, 31 and 37 which give a night to education which is available and compulsory; to play and recreation appropriate to their age and perhaps the more relevant one at the moment which states that detention or imprisonment of a child shall be only as a LAST RESORT and for the shortest time possible.
I call now on the Home Secretary to close the "Family Unit" at Dungavel and to find a more humane way of dealing with the application for asylum made by families.
The very process of removing families from our country requires urgent revision.
Bishop of Paisley
President of Justice and Peace
Catholic Media Office
0141 221 1168