THE detention of pregnant women in immigration holding centres run by the UK Government has been criticised as “heavy handed” and “deeply worrying” by the SNP at Westminster.

The party’s MPs also said there are still “huge concerns” about plans for stricter immigration laws, despite last week’s U-turn by ministers on allowing more refugee children travelling alone in Europe to come to the UK.

The claims came as the Tories’ Immigration Bill returned to the House of Commons after the Govern- ment, in the face of mounting pressure, agreed to accept more of the estimated 90,000 accompanied refugee children who are travelling unaccompanied across the continent.

However, SNP MP Stuart McDonald called for a reversal of the Home Office’s widespread use of detention centres to hold immigrants, including pregnant women, which he said create a “hostile environment” for refugees and asylum seekers.

McDonald, the SNP’s spokesman on immigration at Westminster, also expressed concerns about the overall conditions detainees are kept in at locations such as at the controversial Dungavel House detention centre in South Lanarkshire.

The call for a change in immigration policy came after hundreds of protesters took part in a demonstration at the weekend demanding the closure of the Dungavel, where detainees talked about being locked in cramped, squalid and uncomfortable conditions.

Ministers have been defeated in the Lords over limits on detention in immigration removal centres. Peers voted by 187 to 170 that detention must be limited to 28 days, except when a court decides otherwise.

The Government had argued most of those detained either were foreign criminals, or had broken immigration rules before.

Opponents insisted the limit was needed because detaining people indefinitely had a negative impact on mental health.

Peers also voted to allow asylum seekers the right to work if their claims have not been processed within six months. The 28-day cap on detention was recently recommended by a cross-party group of MPs and peers. The UK Government says the Immigration Bill will “introduce new sanctions on illegal immigration, protect our public services and tackle exploitation of low-skilled workers” and introduce new measures to “make it easier to enforce immigration laws”. However, McDonald accused it of promoting the “criminalisation” of refugees and asylum seekers, with its policy of detaining them in holding centres.

McDonald, the MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, also warned that the bill, which proposes a new offence of illegal working and requires landlords to carry out extra checks, would entrench discrimination against migrants and asylum seekers.

He said: “The UK’s Immigration Bill would facilitate discrimination, damage race relations and restrict the freedoms of citizens and non-citizens.

“The UK Government has shown a heavy-handed one-size-fits-all app- roach to immigration and the SNP is concerned by widespread use of immigration detention and the conditions detainees – particularly pregnant women – have had to face in immigration detention centres.

“The U-turn on child refugees, following pressure from the SNP and others at Westminster, is welcome, but more has to be done.

“The Lords amendments have gone some way to improve the bill – but clearly major concerns still persist.”

McDonald added: “It is, of course, right that the exploitation of migrants is addressed.

“However, an undue focus on irregular migration and the increased criminalisation of migrants detracts from the contributions that migrants make to our economy, demography, society and communities.”

The UK Government says the bill will “introduce new sanctions on illegal workers and rogue employers” and “provide better coordin- ation of regulators that enforce workers’ rights”.