The government has announced its intention to close Dungavel Immigration detention camp next year and replace it with a short term holding facility at Glasgow airport.
Amal Azzudin from Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees (GCtWR) told Socialist Worker, “I welcome the news that Dungavel will be closed. This is something many people including myself have campaigned for.
“However I am concerned about the new removal facility as it is likely to make the deportation process much quicker and people will have less time to seek legal advice.”
Opened in 2001, Dungavel is a grim building on a moor in South Lanarkshire. It detains 249 people from various parts of the world who had all hoped to make a future for themselves in this country, free from war and persecution.
Dungavel has been the centre of bitter opposition throughout its entire existence. Even before it opened, demonstrators from the surrounding area and Glasgow, organised by the recently formed GCtWR and Ayrshire Friends of Refugees, made their way to protest. People were shocked that such a place would exist and that even children would be held there.
There followed one of the largest and most sustained campaigns against immigration detention. It was linked to campaigning support in Glasgow for the thousands of refugees who were dispersed to the city by Tony Blair's government.
Huge resistance in Glasgow to dawn raids, and the subsequent detention and deportation of families including children, saw demos at the Home Office in Glasgow and at Dungavel. Such action eventually both virtually ended the raids in Scotland and the imprisonment of children who had been sent to live in the city.
The camp was the scene of two of the largest demos ever seen outside such places. Firstly there was demo of 1,200 people called by the Scottish TUC, constant opponents of detention, after the deportation of the Ay family ordered by Labour home secretary David Blunkett.
Then, while the G8 met at Gleneagles in 2005, GCtWR organised a protest at Dungavel supported by the STUC and many trade unions. Around 2,000 people spent the day protesting, surrounded by hundreds of police protecting the place, which had been emptied for the occasion.
The Tory government claims that the decision to close the camp is driven by convenience and cost. However it is hard to believe that it is not linked to the constant campaigning, including that of refugees themselves, and the vigilance of unions, lawyers, church groups and visitor groups, with the added opposition of the SNP Scottish government.
Campaigners are determined to oppose and scrutinise the new facility, while still working for the end of all detention.
The closure of Dungavel is to be celebrated. If it can be closed, so can all the other camps.