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Mr Altres
Mr Altres
140 posts

Hopefully not in Scotland
Nov 29, 2003, 12:32

Proposals to place the children of failed asylum seekers in care will not work in Scotland, according to the Scottish National Party.

The party said that the proposed new asylum legislation will not repeal the Children Scotland Act 1995, so Children's Panels will retain the power to return children to their parents, if that is in the best interests of the child.

Party leader John Swinney, who was on a visit to an asylum seekers' centre in Glasgow, said Home Secretary David Blunkett's writ "will not run in Scotland".

He said that it is the responsibility of the Children's Reporter and the Children's Panel to decide what is in the best interests of the child.

Under the government proposals, failed asylum seekers could have their children taken into care if they refuse to leave the country.

Parents would be told to take a paid-for "voluntary" flight home and if they refuse they would lose their benefits and their children.

The Home Office has said that the aim is to ensure that the children do not suffer if benefits are withdrawn.

Mr Swinney said: "David Blunkett plans to punish refugees seeking asylum by taking their children away from them.

"I have never heard of a more immoral, right-wing, oppressive policy than threatening to take children into care as a punishment for the actions of their parents.

"Unfortunately for David Blunkett and fortunately for Scotland's refugee populations, Scots' law won't let that happen. His writ will not run north of the border."

Mr Swinney said the 1995 act was "crystal clear" in stating that the Children's Reporter and Children Panel have legal power over the issue of care.

"The Home Office in London may want to turn its face against humanity but we don't have to follow their lead," he added.

A Home Office spokeswoman agreed that the power to take the final decision on whether or not a child was taken into care remained with the appropriate agencies, and insisted it always intended to "abide by" Scots law.

The spokeswoman said The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Bill, which ends asylum seeker families' right to support when their application has been rejected, contained no specific provisions to take children into care.

She added: "The proposals put forward by the Government simply say that families illegally resident in the UK, once their claims have failed, would no longer be entitled to support at the expense of the taxpayer.

"If by refusing a paid flight home parents put their children at risk the children could be cared for in the normal way under existing legislation - either the Children Act 1989 for England and Wales, or the Children Scotland Act.

"The Home Office feels that most families would not want to put their children through that situation, and the legislation is to encourage families to return voluntarily after their asylum application has been refused."

A spokesman for the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration said most of its referrals came from local authority social services or the police.

He said: "We are waiting for the executive and Scottish ministers to prepare relevant guidance on the matter in due course.

"The principle role of the Children's Hearing system is to come to a decision in the interests of any child referred to the Children's Reporter."

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