Baby girl, 8 months, held at Dungavel detention centre

A BABY girl was being held at the Dungavel detention centre last night, despite Liberal Democrat boasts that they had ended the "shameful" practice of holding children there.

• The Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire is used to house failed asylum seekers. Picture: Christopher Furlong

The eight-month-old was taken to the centre for failed asylum seekers in Lanarkshire with her mother, Sehar Shebaz, from Pakistan, who was detained in Glasgow at 1:30pm yesterday.

The Unity Centre, in Glasgow, which offers support to asylum seekers, said the family had been in the UK for three years.

There was mounting anger that children were still being held at Dungavel after Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott told MSPs last week the practice was being ended by the coalition government at Westminster.

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said: "Tavish Scott's words mean as little as Labour's did when it comes to Dungavel. Last week, the Lib Dems claimed the detention of children at Dungavel had ended. Tonight, an eight-month-old baby is being held behind bars in Scotland.

"Children should not find themselves behind bars in a humane immigration system and, if the Lib Dems' deal means anything, (Scottish Secretary] Danny Alexander and Tavish Scott must act to ensure this child, and all others, are not detained in Dungavel for one more day."

She added: "The SNP has taken the lead in setting up alternatives to detention for children of asylum seekers and asylum-seeking families. That is the approach Scotland wants to see, not cheap talk and no action from another Scottish Secretary."

The SNP has called on the coalition government to reveal how many children are currently being held at Dungavel.

Tam Baillie, Scotland's Children's Commissioner, said: "It appears the pledge to stop children of asylum-seeking families from being detained – effectively imprisoned – is worth next to nothing, less than a week after it was trumpeted by politicians.

"Based on the limited information I have on this case, I would urge authorities to work swiftly to release the child and the mother, to ensure that they stay together, and to place the child's welfare at the heart of decision-making about the pair's future."

Last week, Mr Scott told the Scottish Parliament: "Now the UK government policy is changing and children are no longer to be detained behind razor wire at Dungavel, Liberal Democrats in government having made that happen.

"Labour had 13 years to do that. We saw reports of six-year-old children taken in school uniforms to Dungavel. Wasn't that a shameful end to a Labour government."

As recently as March, five-year-old twins Joshua and Joel Ovranah were pictured being escorted to the removal centre.

Last year's case of ten-year-old Precious Mhango and her mother Florence, who were locked up in Dungavel and later transferred to Yarl's Wood, in Bedfordshire, led to calls from both the Scottish Government and the Commons home affairs select committee for the end of child detention.

Immigration minister Damian Green said: "Our coalition government is committed to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes. We think this is the right thing to do. I hope that we can have plans agreed within the next few months. Whilst this immediate review is ongoing, current policy remains in place.

"This work has already started, because it is in all our interests, including those children currently in detention, to do it quickly, but to also do it well and safely. While keeping children's welfare at the heart of what we do, our government is committed to returning those with no right to stay in the UK."

A Scottish Liberal Democrats spokeswoman said: "We've been very clear that we will end child detention at Dungavel."