A campaign has been launched for human rights organisations to investigate conditions inside Dungavel refugee detention centre.

 

The call follows the Home Office denying the STUC, the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Scottish Refugee Council access to Dungavel. The organisations were seeking access to the notorious centre following reports of an on-going hunger strike by detainees. There are also concerns about detainee's physical and mental health.

Loading article content

The STUC condemned the ban on access and has now asked for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission to inspect Dungavel, saying: "We believe a Human Rights based inspection is sorely needed."

The STUC also called for an end to detention centres as part of the asylum system, and is planning demonstrations outside Dungavel on May 30.

The Catholic Church said "We support the STUC's call for a Human Rights based inspection of Dungavel to ensure that all people being detained there are being treated fairly and with respect."

The Church of Scotland added: "We absolutely think there should be a human rights based investigation of Dungavel as there is no time limit to when people can be held at the facility and that has got to be causing an erosion of mental health."

A spokesperson from Unity, the charity which supports asylum seekers and migrants in Scotland, said: "It's widely known that the detainees do face significant mental health problems and we oppose detention centres.

"We need a full human rights-based investigation into these centres - about how detainees are treated inside and the medical provisions they get, but, in the end, we want detention centres to be closed."

The Scottish Refugee Council also called for action to be taken over Dungavel, highlighting the need for a review of the entire asylum system.

Alex Neil, the Scottish government's Secretary for Social Justice and Communities, has already written to the UK government's Home Secretary Theresa May "urging her to allow access to Dungavel for both the STUC and the Church of Scotland".

He told the Sunday Herald: "I am deeply concerned about the ongoing situation in Dungavel and by the lack of communication on the situation from the Secretary of State and the Home Office.

"The Scottish Government's position is clear that all asylum seekers should be treated with respect and dignity as soon as they arrive in Scotland. We believe there should be a time limit on how long people are detained at Dungavel and that whatever issues are there at the centre should be thoroughly investigated.

"It is the right thing to do to allow the STUC and church representatives to visit the centre to hear the concerns of those detained there."

Latest figures show 41 out of the current 185 detainees in Dungavel have been held for more than three months and in some cases more than a year.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be holding talks over the call by the STUC for the two organisations to inspect Dungavel.

Responding to calls for human rights organisations to inspect Dungavel, the Home Office said: "Detention facilities are inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration...Detention is reviewed on at least a monthly basis for the duration of the period of detention to ensure it continues to be justified and in line with Home Office policy."

The Home Office added: "The healthcare provision at immigration removal centres includes registered mental health nurses and access to visiting specialists, including psychiatrists. Medical advice from these specialists are taken into account in reaching decisions about the care and treatment of detainees, including the issue of whether a person should continue to be detained."