MSP echoes STUC and church call for access to Dungavel to visit detainees

19/03/2015
CommonWeal

Reports suggest detainees have been on hunger strike to protest conditions and the lack of a detention time-limit

AN MSP has echoed a demand by trade union and church leaders to be allowed access to a controversial detention centre where migrants are believed to be on hunger strike.

John Finnie MSP made the comments during a debate led by fellow Independent Jean Urquhart MSP on cultural diversity in Scotland.

The debate was held in a week in which Urquhart launched the ‘Not my Xenophobia’ campaign, designed to tackle anti-immigrant rhetoric and stereotypes.

Raising the issue of the protest at Dungavel, Finnie said: “I want to mention something that hasn’t been mentioned in this debate and that is reports of a hunger strike inside Dungavel.

“This is alarming to me and I hope that MSPS will follow the view of the STUC and demand access to that centre to visit detainees because that is of concern.”

As reported exclusively yesterday on CommonSpace and in The National, detainees at Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in South Lanarkshire have been refusing food to protest conditions and the lack of time limit on detentions. (click here to read more)

The Scottish Trades Union Congress and the Church of Scotland have written (click here to read more) to the manager of Dungavel and Home Secretary Theresa May requesting that a delegation be allowed in to visit those protesting inside.

The strike at Dungavel, the only centre of its kind in Scotland, is the latest in a wave of actions in detention centres across Britain as the UK Government’s detention policy comes under heightened scrutiny.

The UK is the only country in the EU which has no cap on how long people can be detained under immigration powers. Detainees are calling for a 28-day limit.

The hunger strike is reported to have started at Harmondsworth IRC near Heathrow Airport last Sunday 8 March and quickly spread to various centres across the UK, including Dungavel.

Detainees have been documenting their experiences on the ‘Detained Voices’ blog and have spoken of threats and intimidation from guards at the centres.

A demonstration in solidarity with the detainees took place at Dungavel on Sunday.

Earlier, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is deeply concerning that anyone should be on hunger strike at Dungavel.

“While asylum and immigration are reserved issues, we strongly urge the UK Government to ensure these matters are dealt with as humanely as possible.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Detention is only ever used as a last resort, and for the shortest time possible, after all attempts to encourage individuals to leave voluntarily have failed.”

Picture via Creative Commons