MIGRANTS and asylum seekers should only be held in detention centres such as Dungavel House as a “last resort” and only for a fixed period of time, doctors have said.

A report by the doctors' union, the BMA, said the Home Office should consider "more humane means of monitoring people" instead of locking them up in immigration and removal centres (IRCs). It said the facilities should eventually be phased out altogether.

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It calls for a major overhaul of the system amid concerns over restraint, segregation, and the management of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Migrants or asylum seekers can be held in detention centres while their claims are processed, or, where applications have been rejected, pending their removal from the UK. In 2015/16, immigration detention cost taxpayers £125 million.

Although more than two thirds of the people released in 2016 had been detained for less than 29 days, there are currently 179 detainees in the UK who have been held for one to two years and 29 people who have so far been detained for more than two years.

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As of December 31 2016, the longest period of time a person had been detained for was 1,333 days.

The BMA report states: "The detention of people who have not been convicted of a crime should be a measure of last resort... "Detention should be reserved for those individuals who pose a threat to public order or safety.

"Where individuals are detained, there should be a clear limit on the length of time that they can be held in immigration detention, with a presumption that they are held for the shortest possible period."

Plans to close Dungavel House, Scotland's only detention centre, were scrapped in February this year when planning permission for a new short-term holding centre in Paisley was rejected by Renfrewshire Council.

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland said: “Under the current system, we are seriously concerned about the health consequences that detention at centres like Dungavel can have.

"There is no doubt that people seeking asylum who are detained must have access to adequate care that addresses the range physical and mental healthcare needs that these patients might have.”

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Emma Ginn, coordinator of the charity Medical Justice, which works to improve the health of immigration detainees, said: "The BMA’s report echoes concerns we have been raising for over a decade of many disturbing healthcare failures."

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We operate on the basis of a presumption against detention, and the adults at risk policy aims to improve our approach to identifying individuals who may be particularly vulnerable to harm in detention.

“The provision of 24-hour, seven-days-a-week healthcare in all immigration removal centres ensures that individuals held there have ready access to medical professionals and levels of primary care in line with individuals in the community.”