CAMPAIGNERS have branded the practice of paying detainees at Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre just £1 an hour for work including cooking, cleaning and laundry as a "form of slavery".

Figures show that detainees at the centre in South Lanarkshire worked a total of 52,858 hours over 12 months between 2013 and October 2014. The corresponding amount paid by private American firm GEO, which runs the centre, was £52,858.

Campaign group Corporate Watch, which obtained the figures, estimates that if detainees were paid the minimum wage instead of £1 an hour it would have cost the company £280,000 more over that time.

Unlike other countries in the EU, the UK has no time limit on immigration detention - meaning that people entering Dungavel and other centres have no idea how long they will be there. Recently it emerged some detainees were being held at Dungavel for more than a year.

Campaigners say while detainees don't have to take up work, many feel they have to in order to get money to pay for top-ups to phone cards to allow them to call legal advisers and friends, for example.

A documentary by Standoff Films, called Working Illegally, which highlights the practice of paying detainees poverty wages in detention centres across the UK will receive its UK premiere in Glasgow this week.

Asylum seekers are barred from working outside detention centres while their application to stay in the UK is being assessed. Phil Miller of Corporate Watch, who carried out the research, said: "The detainees might have been arrested for working outside, but once they are in the detention centre they can then work for only £1 an hour. That is something which detainees find very hypocritical.

"Generally the jobs include cleaning the centres, preparing food in the kitchen and doing laundry."

The Working Illegally film, which will be screened for free on Wednesday at Glasgow's CCA centre, includes interviews with detainees south of the Border. One said: "You are picked up working outside, they put you in a detention centre.

"Now the next day an officer is asking you, there are jobs to do here, do you need to work? You don't have a calling card to call your solicitor. You just bury your pride somewhere, somehow, and go back to the office and say, you know what, I think I'll do it."

Jasmine Sallis, a caseworker at Glasgow-based asylum seeker support service The Unity Centre, which is hosting the film screening, said: "We have been aware of the hypocritical and self-serving practice used by private companies that are contracted by the Home Office to run immigration detention centres of paying detainees £1 an hour to work while being detained.

"Often detainees do not work straight away but after being detained for a prolonged period employment at £1 an hour is often taken up.

"The main reasons detainees have expressed to us is to purchase phone top-ups in order to communicate with lawyers, friends and support systems. This is a form of slavery.

"Employment in detention is

presented as voluntary, however, for most reports we have had individuals feel they need to work because they cannot rely on individuals outside to continue to purchase phone top-ups, especially once they have been detained for a prolonged period of time."

She described the practice of private security companies using migrants detained for indefinite periods of time for low-paid work as "disgusting", adding that they undertook the work "essentially so they can maintain contact with the outside world, particularly their lawyers.

"Detainees continually claim they are treated worse than animals, have no human rights and are forgotten.''

Human rights barrister Taimour Lay, who is interviewed in the

Working Illegally film, said detainees are not currently protected by employment laws - but should be.

SNP MSP Sandra White said: "The practices at Dungavel have long been a source of shame and this latest revelation will only add to the real concerns about what is happening there.

"Westminster has too often shown scant regard for the rights of people detained at Dungavel - and the UK is the only country in the EU which has no cap on how long people can be detained under immigration powers. It is time for a new approach which prioritises compassion and fairness over punishment and isolation."

A spokesman for GEO said: "The longstanding practice of offering paid work to detainees has been praised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons as it helps to keep them occupied while their removal is being arranged. Whether or not they wish to participate is entirely up to the detainees themselves

"Under its contract with the Home Office Dungavel is required to provide 64 work places each day. Detainees may choose to work up to a maximum of 30 hours per week, or not at all.

"This practice is not a substitute for the work of trained staff. The roles we provide for detainees under the voluntary paid work scheme are in addition to the staff we directly employ to carry out cleaning, catering and gardening roles."

The spokesman said detainees received full training and the numbers volunteering to do jobs is "evidence that the work is popular".

He added: "They have their accommodation and all meals provided. The centre offers a varied and nutritional menu providing three meals a day. This includes vegetables and fruit every day.

"All detainees receive a free mobile phone on arrival to the centre and also have £5 per week credited to their account which they can spend as they please. In addition, they have unlimited access to email from 8am to 10pm, seven days per week.

"Detainees may choose to buy additional items in the centre shop but these are not essentials."

The Home Office failed to respond to a request for comment.

[BLOB] A GUARD at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre has been suspended following an alleged assault on female detainees.

Serco, which runs the centre on behalf of the Home Office, said a woman was taken to hospital with bruising as a "precautionary" measure and was returned to the detention centre. Bedfordshire police said their inquiry found no offence had taken place.

Norman Abusin, Serco's Contract Director at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, said: "The whole incident was recorded on handheld camera, and following a review of that film by Home Office staff and HM Inspector of Prisons, we have sought additional external advice and assessment of the use of shields in this incident. Whilst this assessment is carried out, we have suspended a member of staff, and the local police were informed."