THE leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has admitted it was "difficult to defend" the long-term detention of young children at the Dungavel holding centre for asylum seekers.
Until now Jim Wallace had joined the rest of his Scottish Executive cabinet colleagues in refusing to comment on asylum issues and, in particular, the case of the Kurdish Ay family.
The family, including four children, were detained at the Lanarkshire centre for a year before being deported to Germany.
Now Mr Wallace, who stressed he was speaking as the leader of his party rather than as a Scottish Executive minister, has questioned the handling of the case.
"As a party, the Lib Dems believe the asylum policy should be underpinned by the UN Convention on Refugees, that all applications should be treated fairly and without prejudice as quickly as possible," he said. "The welfare of the children must be a priority in any asylum application and it’s difficult to see how such a long period of detention can be justified."
Holyrood ministers have previously maintained they could not comment on matters of asylum policy because it is not a devolved issue.
The Ay children are believed to hold the record for minors being held in a UK detention centre, and their health is said to be suffering as a result.
Yurdugal Ay and her husband Salih fled from Turkey 15 years ago. Salih Ay was sent to Germany last year and from there deported to Turkey, but the family’s lawyers said he has not been heard from since. The family plans to launch a fresh legal challenge against the British Government’s deportation decision.