Socialist Worker

Detainees at Dungavel join calls for freedom as protesters gather outside

by Margaret Woods
Issue No. 2447

Part of the protest at Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire last Sunday

Part of the protest at Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire last Sunday (Pic: Josh Brown)

Detainees in Dungavel Detention Centre in Lanarkshire took to its grounds last week to join a solidarity demonstration taking place outside.

Some 60 people were protesting against detention outside the refugee prison last Sunday when they heard chants coming from behind the wall.

Through holes in the fence they could see around 30 detained migrants in the yard waving, answering the slogans and chanting, “Freedom, freedom.”

The protest was called by The Harmony Choir and Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees. 

They were joined by the Maryhill Integration Network and supporters of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Protesters received a thank you message from the detainees which said, “It was a full show of people power.”

Usually when there is a demonstration outside detainees are confined to their rooms, and visitors or lawyers are not allowed into the centre.

Some people have been detained in Dungavel for more than a year.

Many detainees have been brought to the centre from England and have no family or friends nearby who can visit them.

Britain is the only country in Europe to keep refugees detained indefinitely. A limit of 28 days could soon be put in place.

This week a report was also published into Harmondsworth in London, Britain’s largest immigration detention centre.


An investigation by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) slammed it as “depressing” and “dirty”.

The centre holds more than 600 men. The IMB found that it has “a destructive effect on the welfare of detainees”.

It reported how one migrant sewed his mouth shut in protest at the conditions and was unable to “eat, drink or medicate”.

Only known as Mr U he wrote a note which said, “Release me or send me home.” 

He spent nearly nine months in detention and was later released.

Hunger strikes have also been taking place at Harmondsworth. 

The report said the government should “urgently” set up an independent review into the practice of keeping detainees locked up for more than a year.

Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees calls for the shutting of Dungavel and all other detention centres in Britain. 

This call has been echoed by members of the Scottish government as well as trade unions.

But people who have been detained for long periods of time and are traumatised cannot just be thrown onto the streets without status. 

They should be granted asylum and given proper health care and assistance to establish a normal life.

Some have been detained as long as five years. They should also be compensated for the lengthy inhumane periods of imprisonment which they have suffered. 

Margaret Woods works with the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees

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