THE Scottish Government should consider a law change allowing the forcible sedation of mentally ill immigration detainees being taken to hospital, a report suggests.

The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWC) suggests the move could ease the distress of vulnerable people being removed from Dungavel for specialist treatment.

The call was made in an inspection report released yesterday. The commission, which acts to “protect and promote the human rights of people with mental illness”, said there is a “strong presumption” that those with serious mental health problems should not be placed in immigration removal centres like Dungavel, which is the only one in Scotland.

However, they said the suffering of those who do present serious problems may be compounded by the fact that staff cannot administer sedatives to ease their transfer to hospital. Currently specialist restrain belts are used, but the commission said this can cause “a great deal of distress to the individual” and staff. It suggests ministers should “consider” a law change to allow drugs to be used instead.

The report states: “Dungavel cannot administer medication without consent to calm individuals prior to the transfer journey, either orally or as intramuscular medication. There is no current legislation that would allow them to do so.

“This has been an issue in the past, and has meant that more intensive restraint has had to be used, which can cause a great deal of distress to the individual and those caring for them. This is a matter which the Scottish Government may wish to consider.”

Speaking to The National, chief executive Colin McKay acknowledged “broader concerns about the mental health of all detainees” and said while checks are carried out on arrival, some may develop problems while being held.

He stated: “We are just suggesting that it needs to be looked at because it does raise a lot of difficult issues. There would be problems saying it is okay to forcibly give people medication in an immigration centre or a prison facility because they are not hospitals.”

The Home Office declined to comment but a spokesperson for the Unity Centre in Glasgow, which opposes immigration detention, said: “It would obviously be better for individuals if the use of violent restraints was reduced, and not just in situations of mental health hospital transfer but across the board. However, the prison-industrial complex as it operates in Dungavel has no motivation that relates to welfare.

“If they push for legislation for the right to administer medication, it will inevitably also be used to control and dominate.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “We note the concerns of the commission with regard to hospital transfers from Dungavel and will consider what can be done to support well-planned and managed transfers. We continue to press the UK Government to deliver more humane and flexible asylum

and immigration systems.”