Socialist Worker

Labour policy drives refugees to suicide

Issue No. 1912

THE TRAGEDY of New Labour’s draconian asylum policy moved north last Friday night, from Harmondsworth to the Dungavel detention centre in Scotland.

Just four days after the suspected suicide of a 31 year old man at Harmondsworth, a 22 year old male asylum seeker took his own life at Dungavel.

The young man, believed to be from Vietnam, was one of 30 people transported from Harmondsworth to Dungavel following last week’s riots at the detention centre near Heathrow.

He is said to have been found around 10pm last Friday, having attempted to hang himself. He died later in hospital.

Asylum rights campaigners in Scotland reacted with anger to the news.

Lawyer and activist Aamer Anwar attacked the policy of detaining asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down by the Home Office.

“This just shows how barbaric the whole system is,” he said. “The detainees at Dungavel have committed no crime.”

Ethnic minority housing campaigner Robina Qureshi, of the Glasgow-based organisation Positive Action in Housing, pointed out that Dungavel had seen other suicide attempts.

“This suicide is part and parcel of the Dungavel culture—a culture of fear, suicide attempts, self harm and psychological depression,” she argued.

The Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees demanded that home secretary David Blunkett answer one simple question: “Why are asylum seekers who are facing deportation taking their own lives if not through genuine fear of persecution in their countries of origin?”

The campaign believes that Blunkett “has blood on his hands”, and has demanded his immediate resignation.

This call is likely to be echoed by many others.

It is only weeks since Blunkett visited the privately-run facility at Dungavel and declared it was “entirely satisfactory”.

He talks of the quality of the staff or the furniture, never facing up to the fact that the opposition is to the policy of incarcerating asylum seekers at all.

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Sat 31 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1912
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