The Home Secretary has defended the controversial Dungavel asylum detention centre on Friday after a Roman Catholic bishop handed over a petition demanding its closure. The Bishop of Paisley, John Mone, has been at the forefront of calls to close the family unit at Dungavel detention centre, near Strathaven in Lanarkshire. Bishop Mone, president of the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission, presented Mr Blunkett with a petition bearing 21,000 names. He told BBC Radio Scotland: "I think it (the family unit) shames all of us in Scotland." The bishop is further calling for all detention centres with children in the UK to be closed. Churches and refugee groups say that children are held in prison-like conditions for up to eight months, and beyond in some cases. But David Blunkett said: "Detention, while regrettable, is an essential part of effective immigration control: to affect removal, establish identity or prevent absconding." Government inspectors yesterday began assessing the quality of education provided at the centre. The unit has been at the centre of a long-running controversy, particularly over the case of a Kurdish family detained there for a year. Leading figures from Scottish churches and Muslim groups signed an open letter earlier this month urging the Home Office to consider the effects of detention on the children of the Ay family. The family's 14-year-old daughter said that she and other children were only allowed out of the centre for two hours a day, and that the only school books available were aimed at five to seven-year-olds. Commenting after meeting the Bishop of Paisley yesterday, Mr Blunkett said: "Where it is necessary to detain individuals with children, we believe it is better that the children remain with their parents rather than split up the family. Where families are detained, they are accommodated in specially designed family accommodation. A report on Dungavel is to be published next month by the Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, since immigration matters come within Westminster control. Source: Ekklesia
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