Scotland should adopt a Swedish scheme of deporting failed asylum seekers which places a greater emphasis on voluntary returns backed up by giving them better support and information, a leading refugee group said yesterday.

The Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) said alternatives to enforced removals, including the heavily criticised practice of so-called dawn raids on families, had not been properly explored by the UK immigration service.

Asylum seekers who are due to be removed are often given no information or reassurance about what will happen to them in their home country, the SRC said.

Sally Daghlian, SRC's chief executive, pointed to the model adopted in Sweden, where individuals whose asylum applications have been rejected are given motivational counselling and other support work to prepare them for their eventual repatriation, as having greater success in securing voluntary returns.

She said the practice would fit well with the case worker system introduced under the Home Office's New Asylum Model (NAM) last November which seeks to fast-track asylum claims within six months.

"We accept that governments have the right to remove people in some cases, but current removal practices are not working," she said. "We believe that when returns are effected they should be safe, dignified, sustainable and respect people's human rights. We firmly believe that, as is the case in many other countries, it is possible to remove families without the use of force or detention."

Her intervention was made as part of a UK-wide "citizen's commission" into Britain's asylum system which travelled to Glasgow yesterday to take evidence on removal procedures. The event saw further criticism of dawn raids and the practice of detaining children and families.

Sandra White, the Nationalist MSP, said detentions should be abolished while Unison, the public sector union, said the practice breached Scots law.

Removing asylum seekers who have exhausted their legal right to remain in the UK is notoriously difficult: foreign states often refuse to recognise them as citizens and many are fearful of what will happen to them if they are returned.

However, Sweden has claimed a high success rate in returning people voluntarily after introducing a more liberal asylum policy in 1997. The move was prompted by a spate of riots and hunger strikes in some of the country's detention centres.

The reforms saw a case worker appointed to each asylum seeker to advise them on their legal rights and offer guidance prior to removal. Despite returning around 80% of applicants, the use of enforced removals in Sweden is rare.

In Scotland, there are nearly 2500 "legacy cases" of asylum applicants who were rejected before the NAM system was introduced in November, some of whom have been in Scotland for more than five years. Of these, approximately 1450 are family cases, according to figures obtained last month by The Herald.

The Home Office trialled a voluntary repatriation scheme last year through which asylum seekers could claim a grant to help them return to their home country. But it was criticised by refugee groups and it had a poor rate of people signing up to it.

Phil Taylor, chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland, said yesterday that enforced removal was always a "last resort".