Twins aged five taken to Dungavel

There has been long-running controversy over the detention of children at Dungavel

A Church of Scotland minister has spoken out after two five-year-old boys were taken to the Dungavel detention centre in their school uniforms.

Reverend Ian Galloway spoke out following the detention of Nigerian twins Joshua and Joel Ovranah, and their mother, Stephanie. He said it was the “latest example of young children being put in distressing circumstances”.

The UK Border Agency said it had “no option” but to detain the family.

It is understood immigration officials transported the two boys and their mother to the centre in South Lanarkshire after the family had gone to sign on at Brand Street Immigration Centre in Glasgow on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Galloway, the convener of the Church and Society Council, said the boys had come straight from St Rose of Lima Primary in Glasgow’s east end, and were wearing their school uniform as officials transported them to the detention centre.

It is a horrific experience for anyone to go through, not least for two five-year-old boys
Reverend Muriel Pearson

The family had been involved in activities through the Cranhill Community Project in Glasgow, and had also been attending Cranhill Parish Church, he added.

Mr Galloway said: “The General Assembly along with many others in Scotland have expressed their abhorrence at the practice of detaining young children and have asked the Scottish government to end this brutal and inhumane regime.”

Stephanie Ovranah arrived in the UK in 2006 when her boys were infants after fleeing domestic violence at the hands of her partner and his mother in Nigeria.

Her own mother and sister are in London, with leave to remain.

She claims that her partner will forcibly take the boys from her if she is sent back to Nigeria.

Reverend Muriel Pearson, who visited the family on Thursday at the detention centre, said it was likely they would be transferred to Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, which would isolate the family further.

‘Last resort’

Ms Pearson said: “Our church members question the need to detain the family, since Stephanie does not pose a flight risk.

“Visitors have all their belongings removed, are photographed and have finger print recognition done.

“It is a horrific experience for anyone to go through, not least for two five-year-old boys.”

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: “Each case is considered on its own merits. We expect those who have been found by the UK Border Agency and the independent courts not to have a right to be here, to leave voluntarily and detention remains a last resort.

“If however someone refuses to leave we will not hesitate to find ways to remove them”.

A statement released by the agency said it would prefer not to detain families with children, but when they failed to leave voluntarily there was no option “but to detain them to enforce their departure”.

“We consider it generally better for children to remain with their parents/guardians when in this situation and they are therefore usually detained for just a few days prior to their scheduled as part of a family group”, the statement added.