A SCOTS lawyer has urged the UK Immigration Minister to review the detention system for asylum seekers and people suspected of visa violations or illegal entry to find “a more humane, cost effective and productive solution”.

Usman Aslam said he had contacted Caroline Nokes offering to meet her to find an alternative to detention in immigration removal centres such as Dungavel.

Aslam, from the Glasgow legal practice McGlashan MacKay, was speaking exclusively to The National after one of his clients was held in the South Lanarkshire facility for almost two weeks awaiting removal, despite a legal challenge that should have halted the move.

Isabella Katjiparatijivi, from Namibia, sought asylum here due to persecution because of her sexuality in her home country and was detained when she reported to the Home Office on January 8.

The 29-year-old was released from Dungavel on Wednesday after the Home Office postponed a removal order, the existence of which it had previously denied.

READ MORE: Namibian asylum seeker to leave Dungavel as Home Office backs down

Aslam told The National the trauma of detention was worrying for all concerned: “What has happened with Isabella, and also to another one of my clients after Isabella was detained, is that the Secretary of State should urgently review the detention system.

“I understand various organisations have put forward valid reasons recently, as to why there is clearly mass concern.

“The Home Office detention policy states that it should really be a last resort, and that alternatives to detention should be sought. It states that there is a presumption in favour of liberty. Another striking aspect of the detention policy says it should be used where there is a suspicion that the person may not adhere to bail conditions, or if the person is about to be removed from the UK.

“It also says detention should be used sparingly, and for the shortest period possible. Of course it says a lot more but these are the foundation principles.”

He said the argument about an individual absconding was weak and all his firm’s clients – including Katjiparatijivi – always adhered to their reporting conditions.

“We are of the view that those who are trying to fight their asylum case, or immigration case, have every reason to remain under the radar,” he said.

“However, reporting can be done in many forms that doesn’t require degrading human beings and locking them up.”

The UK has one of Europe’s biggest immigration detention estates – between 2009 and 2017, up to 3500 migrants have been detained at any given time.

Among Aslam’s suggestions for an alternative were reporting by phone and a community system: “There are lots of different ways this can be done.

“Why not report by telephone? We could go towards more of a community-based approach whereby those without immigration status can take part in community projects whilst their case is outstanding. They could report to a case manager.”

READ MORE: Home Office lied to The National over asylum seeker case, lawyer says

He added that the cost to the taxpayer of keeping people detained should also be considered in formulating a new approach: “There are lots of sources that have produced figures, but take for example the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. They say the average cost of holding someone in detention is around £86 per day so over £30,000 per year – and that’s for one person. That money can go towards something so much more productive.

“The other issue is that scientific research tells us that people detained by the Home Office end up with mental health diagnosis such as PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] so there are horrible consequences resulting from unnecessary detention.

“The starting point here, for everyone, is to realise that we are not dealing with numbers, statistics, we are dealing with human beings.

“It is about time we start to treat asylum seekers this way.

“We are committed to going over and above for our clients, and that includes a shift in policy change.”