Children's plea on asylum family

CHILDREN handed a petition signed by more than 800 people to Jack McConnell, the First Minister, yesterday, calling for the release of a family of asylum seekers from a detention centre in Scotland.

The Waku family were reportedly removed from their home in Cardonald, Glasgow, earlier this week by immigration officers.

The family of five, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are believed to be in the Dungavel Detention Centre.

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Max and Onoya Waku fled the DRC six years ago, but have failed to gain asylum in Scotland.

Their oldest children, Jean Marc and Grace, are at Lourdes Secondary School in Glasgow. Their youngest child, Genuine, four, was born in this country.

Friends of the older children at the school collected 885 signatures calling for the family to be released immediately.

Lauren Bendford, who turned 13 yesterday, had invited Grace to a sleepover to celebrate her birthday. She was at the Scottish Parliament yesterday to hand over the petition.

She said: "On Tuesday, I found out Grace had been taken away with her family to a prison. Then someone said if they are sent back to the DRC, they will be shot dead. Every time I think of her locked up, I can't stop crying."

Another friend, Cheryl Paterson, 13, said: "I just want her back. I miss her so much."

Robina Qureshi, the director of Positive Action in Housing, a charity that works with ethnic minorities, questioned why another family has been removed in a dawn raid just days after Hugh Henry, the education minister, made it clear that the Executive wanted to see families with children dealt with humanely.

At First Minister's questions yesterday, Mr McConnell backed Mr Henry's stance.

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