Scottish church leaders call for release of asylum seekers

 Senior clergy in Scotland have called for the immediate release of a Kurdish family who have been detained for almost a year. In a letter published in The Scotsman, three bishops - two Catholic and one Episcopalian - have joined a former moderator of the Church of Scotland and others in condemning the treatment of the Ay family as "a grave injustice". It is believed that the length of the family's detention in what used to be a prison, has already set a record in the UK. But on Tuesday, appeal court judges dismissed human rights arguments by Yurdugal Ay, 34, a Turkish Kurd, that the mental health of her children would be jeopardised if they were removed from the country. The Ays, including sisters, Beriwan, 14, Newroz, 13, Medya, eight, and their brother, Dilovan, 12, entered Britain unlawfully after a failed asylum application in Germany in 1999. Last year, Salih, the children's father, was returned to Istanbul via Germany. The family claim there has been no news of him since. The Very Rev John Cairns, the former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, Rt Rev John Mone, the Bishop of Paisley and Rt Rev Idris Jones, the Episcopalian Bishop of Glasgow, have joined Bill Speirs, the General Secretary of the STUC, Dr Frank Murphy, the former psychology manager in South Lanarkshire Council and Ashraf Anjum, the president of the Islamic Centre in Glasgow to call for the immediate release of the family. The letter states: "Our concern is one of human rights and reparation for what we feel has been a grave injustice committed against them [the family], particularly the children." The signatories note that the Home Office viewed the family as "serial absconders" as a result of their clandestine entry to the UK from Germany, but continue: "While this may be the case, it is inhuman to detain children for 11 months behind barbed wire fences with no opportunity of leaving what is a prison regime." Dungavel, where they are being held, is a former prison, near Strathaven, Lanarkshire. It was brought into service to detain asylum seekers deemed to be a flight risk or facing imminent deportation. The letter continues: "The family are essentially victims of a system which appears to be overwhelmed." It concludes by appealing to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to grant the family residency in the UK as reparation for the length of detention, despite the fact that they have broken no law. Supporters claim it is immoral to return the family to Germany, in the full knowledge that they will, almost immediately, be transferred back to Turkey and what they claim would be an uncertain fate. Last night, a spokeswoman for the Home Office reiterated its assertion that the family's insistence on pursuing legal action was responsible for the protracted detention. Source: Ekklesia

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