ALMOST 100 people joined last Sunday's picket of Scotland's first detention centre for asylum seekers at Dungavel in south Lanarkshire. The camp is being run by Premier Custodial Group, a subsidiary of Wackenhut Corporate Corrections which specialises in the privatisation of prisons and detention centres worldwide.
Wackenhut also runs detention centres for refugees in Australia. These detention centres have come under heavy criticism for their appalling record of human rights violations and suicides. A rally at the gates of the camp heard messages of support from MSPs Sandra White and Tommy Sheridan, and from Catholic Bishop Devine of Motherwell.
Local people from south Lanarkshire and Ayrshire were joined by representatives of numerous organisations including the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, the Scottish Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, the lecturers' and teachers' unions the AUT and the EIS, the Anti Nazi League, and the Scottish Socialist Party.
Local activists and the Glasgow campaign have pledged to launch a Scotland-wide campaign to close the detention centre.
Birmingham Evening Mail
AROUND 30 people joined a picket organised by the Socialist Alliance outside the Birmingham Evening Mail last week. They were protesting against recent reports scapegoating asylum seekers. The paper ran a front page attacking the council for stopping bus passes for the blind while asylum seekers were allowed to retain theirs.
One of the pickets, Salman Mirza, asylum and immigration project worker at the Asian Resources Centre, explained, "Reports like this pit one group against another and blame refugees for the problems created by the government. "This is why it is important to respond immediately." The picket was welcomed by passers-by. A doctor from the local children's hospital commented, "This country has a responsibility to provide asylum to people who are fleeing conflict or persecution. I feel strongly that the press should be challenged."
The demonstration provoked further debate among staff about the Mail's coverage of asylum seekers. The National Union of Journalists rep told protesters that reporters are looking for stories from the asylum seekers themselves, and have approached the Socialist Alliance about the possibility of organising a public meeting on the media and asylum seekers.
Release the refugees
March to Walton prison from Bootle Town Hall. Assemble 11.30am, Saturday 22 September
Called by Merseyside Against Detention, Asylum Link Merseyside, Manchester Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, Liverpool Trades Council, Merseyside FBU, Sefton UNISON and St Helens Metropolitan UNISON