Socialist Worker

Opposition to detention centre spreads

Issue No. 1912

The opposition to Dungavel, a former prison in an isolated part of the South Lanarkshire countryside, has spread across Scotland’s civic organisations.

The Scottish Socialist Party, the Greens and the SNP, along with individual Labour MPs and MSPs, have all called for the closure of the centre.

Various religious groups, including the Scottish Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, have added their names to the call for closure.

In September of last year the Scottish TUC called the largest demonstration so far—attended by over 2,000 people—at Dungavel, demanding that it be shut down.

Despite the pressure of trade unions, Blair and Blunkett have continued to ignore even the most modest calls to end the detention of children in Dungavel.

The issue of children being detained at the centre is particularly embarrassing for the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition in the Scottish Executive.

Scottish first minister Jack McConnell maintains a disgraceful silence over Dungavel on the grounds that asylum policy is a “reserved power” for Westminster, and is not under the jurisdiction of the Edinburgh parliament.

Yet the education of every child in Scotland is a devolved responsibility of the Scottish Executive.

Many children have been held for significant periods in the detention centre, refused access to full school facilities or a proper educational environment.

The four children of the Kurdish Ay family, who were deported to Germany last year, were locked up in Dungavel for a year.

The detention of children has been attacked by children’s charities and even Glasgow’s Labour council.

There has been widespread speculation that Blunkett plans to expand Dungavel.

Yet the Home Office is also proposing a pilot scheme to track asylum seekers in Scotland by using new mobile phone technology.

If the expansion of Dungavel goes ahead it will give the lie to claims that the monitoring of asylum seekers’ movements would be an alternative to detention.

The Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees opposes all monitoring of asylum seekers, whether it is by tagging or phone technology. It is an assault on the human rights and dignity of asylum seekers.

The tragic death of the young asylum seeker last Friday will strengthen the calls from activists for a national Scottish demonstration for the closure of Dungavel at the parliament in Edinburgh.

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