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Date 5 October 2006

UNISON calls for Executive to intervene with Home Office over asylum-seeker children

UNISON - the union that represents social work staff - has again appealed to First Minister Jack McConnell to step in to find out why measures to protect the welfare of asylum seeker children under Scottish law are being ignored by the Home Office.

A commitment was made by the UK Immigration Minister back in March to ensure that asylum-seeker's children would be assessed and each would have a lead professional appointed, plus immigration staff dealing with children would have to have enhanced disclosure checks. These commitments have not yet been honoured.

UNISON's call follows a spate of recent ‘dawn raids' by immigration officials outwith the agreed protocol. A number of these raids have resulted in young children being separated from their parents and driven off by people who were strangers to them.

Matt Smith, UNISON's Scottish Secretary has written to Mr McConnell calling on him to act urgently. The letter says: "In no other circumstances would children be peremptorily separated from parents, refused the comfort and care of their parents, be forced to witness parents being handcuffed and be transported and detained by staff who (as yet it appears) do not have to be subject to enhanced disclosure checks.

"These actions fly in the face of the very protections that Scottish child care legislation, guidance and policy seek to ensure.”

UNISON quotes the Children (Scotland) Act and other laws and guidance which state that the child's welfare must be paramount in Scotland.

"We entered constructively into talks with the Scottish Executive and backed an agreement that meant asylum seeker children would be assessed, would have a lead professional and their services would be inspected. The Home Office was meant to consult to ensure children's needs were recognised. This is just not happening and we need to know why”, said Matt

"As a nation we should be proud of these laws which put children first. How can we reconcile that with ‘dawn raids' that treat innocent children like criminals?”, he added.


For Further Information Please Contact: Matt Smith (Scottish Secretary) 07771 548 997(m) Stephen Smellie (Chair - Social Work issues group) 07740 096 864(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)