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Dungavel to close – but we need sea change say activists

by Paddy McGuffin

THE announced closure of Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre is long overdue but must be accompanied by a sea change in government policy, campaigners said yesterday.

The notorious centre near Strathaven in Lanarkshire will shut its doors for the last time towards the end of 2017, the Home Office has confirmed.

Dungavel, which opened in 2001, is the only such centre in Scotland and has long been branded “racist and inhumane” by campaigners.

Concerns about the detention of vulnerable asylum seekers at the facility were also raised by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in 2015.

Despite such criticisms the Home Office has consistently said that Dungavel was an important part of a “firm but fair” detention system.

Following the closure announcement it said it would look to replace Dungavel with a new short-term holding facility close to Glasgow Airport.

Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) general secretary Grahame Smith said Dungavel had “for too long been a symbol of all that is wrong in our immigration system.”

He said: “While we recognise that this is a step in the right direction, we are by no means convinced that the problems within our immigration system are now solved.

“It is clear detention will still play a role in the system going forward and our asylum system has for too long run on a climate of suspicion rather than one of dignity and respect for those who are fleeing persecution.”

Positive Action in Housing refugee charity director Robina Qureshi also welcomed the closure but added: “We remain concerned about what happens next.

“A short-term holding facility will be built at Glasgow airport making it easier to remove people to London airports from where most removals take place.

Green MSP Ross Greer shared her concerns and warned that Dungavel’s replacement must not be a carbon copy.

“The new facility is an opportunity for the British government to begin treating these vulnerable people with some dignity and respect,” he said.

“We’re not holding our breath however, given that this is the Home Office which paid for disgusting billboards telling refugees and immigrants to ‘go home’ and which regularly deports people back to situations where they are in clear danger.”

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