MORE THAN 200 people joined last Sunday’s protest at the Dungavel detention centre in South Lanarkshire, called by the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees.
They mourned the death of Tung Wang, the young Vietnamese asylum seeker who committed suicide at Dungavel on 23 July, and demanded that the detention centre be closed down.
A wreath and card were laid at the gate to the heavily fortified former prison, and one minute’s silence was observed.
In an unprecedented move, representatives of the protesters were invited into Dungavel to meet with a group of detained asylum seekers.
Under pressure from increasingly well organised detainees, many of them recently transferred from Harmondsworth, the authorities agreed to the meeting.
Sandra White MSP, of the SNP, and lawyer and activist Aamer Anwar met with seven asylum seekers. They were given a detailed statement on behalf of all detainees in Dungavel.
The statement outlines cases of people being detained for periods of years without trial.
It highlights serious shortcomings in the legal representation offered to detainees through the Legal Aid system.
The statement refers to the Harmondsworth detention centre as a “torture centre”, and says that the recent riot there was the culmination of a long period of “disgusting” treatment of detainees.
The death of Tung Wang, it says, was caused by the Home Office issuing him with a deportation order back to Vietnam.
The statement also alleges serious physical and mental mistreatment of asylum seekers, both in detention and in the process of deportation.
The demonstration outside the centre heard messages of support from Bill Speirs, general secretary of the Scottish TUC, Respect MP George Galloway and the Scottish novelist A L Kennedy.
Speakers at the rally included Scottish Socialist Party MSP Carolyn Leckie, left wing Labour MSP Elaine Smith, Mohammad Asif of the Glasgow Refugee Action Group and Pete Murray from the national executive of the National Union of Journalists.
The protesters expressed unanimous support for the proposal that a national demonstration for asylum rights be held outside the new Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh when it opens on 9 October.
Other protests against the deaths of refugees in detention took place at the Dover Removals Centre in Kent, Manchester, Liverpool, and Campsfield near Oxford.