24 June 2018

Pauline McNeill MSP is making a sincere and admirable call for annual visits to Dungavel. However, unless these are unannounced , MSPs will simply become part of the PR of a prepared visit.

The compliant detainees will be brought out to meet the delegation. Meanwhile, the suicidal ones, the self harmers, the hunger strikers and those who have ever questioned their indefinite detention will be hidden from view.

Dungavel is run by GEO Group, one of America’s top private prison companies, who backed Trump’s Presidential campaign and make millions out of long term incarceration of innocent people in the UK.

Dungavel is essentially a prison designed to discourage visitors or any kind of public scrutiny, thereby increasing the isolation of its “detainees” – a dehumanising term.

The reason we don’t hear much about what’s going on inside is that the Home Office has controlled visitor access severely to make investigative visits almost impossible. When it first opened, visitors could attend during opening hours and walk in. Now all visitors are finger printed, photographed, their personal possessions examines and mobile phones confiscated. The detainee visitors groups are allowed access on condition that they play a severely restricted role. “Detainees” cannot easily communicate with support networks outside and there are suspicions that phone calls are monitored.

Several suicides have now taken place, (what happened to the Chinese gentleman who killed himself in isolation there last year? The incident was buried.) and incidents of self harm occur with alarming regularity. Innocent people are being detained indefinitely for months and years without any reason at all. Most startling of all, Home office stats show that several children have been recently detained there too.

Dungavel was initially promoted in 2001 as a half way house to the airport for people being deported. Yet, the reality is that people are detained for months or years and it is in the interest of GEO to keep it that way, as they are paid per night for each person it detains.

In our experience, it is routine for people have been released after long term indefinite incarceration without any rhyme or reason. They have simply been given a paper signing their release and their fare to Glasgow. There is nothing to explain why they might suddenly be released other than the fact that they had been locked up unjustly and indefinitely in the detention estates for months or years.

What Dungavel needs is to be closed down and for innocent people to be released so they can source the support they need to secure their status or decide their options. Certainly, it would save the taxpayer millions.

Pauline McNeill is rightly calling for greater public scrutiny, and Scottish Secretary David Mundell should be supporting this call. He has the power to give his permission to Individuals or organisations to view an immigration removal centre under the provisions of the detention centre rules 2001.

The Home Office statement that:

“Requests to visit are carefully considered to preserve the privacy and dignity of the individuals detained and to avoid a disproportionate number of visits”, is a joke. The Home Office doesn’t give a damn about people’s dignity or privacy, it’s whole raison d’aitre is dehumanisation. Years of observing its unjust and cruel treatment of vulnerable people confirms that.

R Z Qureshi

Call to allow MSPs annual access visits to Dungavel detention centre


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