A SCOTTISH MP and a lawyer have hit out at the Home Office over its failure to find a “humane” alternative to detention for immigrants.

Alison Thewliss spoke out after Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes told her in a letter that UK policy required that “detention is only used sparingly and for the shortest period necessary”.

The SNP member for Glasgow Central said this was “completely at odds” with her and others’ experience.

She cited the case of constituent Zacharie Cyriaque, who ran at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and was a Paralympic coach. He sought asylum in Scotland after fleeing the Central African Republic (CAR) following a protest linked to a labour dispute.

READ MORE: The Olympian surviving in the UK's detention system

He said he was beaten by authorities and received death threats. His asylum claim included images of murdered family members and medical certificates confirming the rapes of others.

Cyriaque has spent years in limbo after being detained at the Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre, despite poor mental health and medics assessing him as being at risk. He was released from the facility in February following an online petition, but returned to Dungavel after being told he must take a flight back to CAR.

He was advised by lawyers at the time not to take a flight home.

Thewliss told The National: “The Home Office’s treatment of Zacharie has been appalling, and the Secretary of State and Immigration Minister have consistently ducked requests from both myself, and Zacharie’s lawyer, to meet to discuss his case.

“This is someone who has received death threats in their home country. Members of his family have been raped and murdered, understandably causing him significant trauma, and he has had no other option but to claim asylum in the UK.

“Despite all this, the Home Office determined that the best option was to place Zacharie in detention, offering no reason why, with a view to eventually deporting him. The lack of compassion, even for the Home Office, is breathtaking.

She continued: “The minister’s response states that current published policy in the UK requires that detention is used sparingly and for the shortest period necessary.

“To me, and many others, this is completely at odds with the situation on the ground.

“Too many people are being wrongfully or unnecessarily detained for lengthy periods of time ... The UK Government must get its house in order, and should seriously consider proposals for a maximum detention timescale. The current system is expensive, ineffective and unjust.”

Usman Aslam, Cyriaque’s lawyer, said he was pleased with the general response from the public, charities, politicians and other solicitors who were now engaging in the discussion about finding alternatives to detention.

“The need to end indefinite, inappropriate, degrading detention is a topic that needs urgent attention, and I don’t intend on giving up here,” he said.

“I note that in the minister’s letter, it is said that there are more ‘slogans than evidence’ on this topic.

“Well, why not face the evidence, then the Home Office may realise that it is so compelling that anyone looking at it would agree that the costs for unnecessary detention to the public deserves more than just an acknowledgement letter.”

He added: “There are so many cheaper and, more importantly, productive and humane alternatives to detention ... We need to start looking at asylum seekers as humans and not statistics.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The health, welfare and dignity of those in immigration detention is of the utmost importance.

“We use detention sparingly and only when necessary. Vulnerable people are only detained, or their detention continued, when the immigration considerations outweigh the evidence of vulnerability.

“We have made significant improvements in recent years.”