MSP slams "shameful" Dungavel detention centre following new revelations

Sandra White says that a "fair, effective and humane" asylum policy is needed

AN MSP has called the practices at a detention centre in Scotland "absolutely shameful" after it emerged that some asylum seekers were being held there for over a year.

New data has has also emerged that dozens of migrants have been held for months at the controversial Dungavel immigration removal centre in South Lanarkshire.

The figures were released to the BBC's Scotland 2015 programme under Freedom of Information legislation.

SNP MSP Sandra White said that there is a need for a "fair, effective and humane" asylum and immigration policy.

White said: "Some of the practices employed at Dungavel - from child detention to today's revelations of some people being held for more than a year - have been absolutely shameful and show why we need a new direction when it comes to asylum and immigration policy.

"Westminster has too often shown scant regard for the rights of people detained at Dungavel - and 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 fair, effective and humane asylum and immigration policy would benefit everyone - helping those who seek asylum to more easily integrate into our communities and allowing our national life to benefit from their skills and their culture."

MPs at Westminster have called for a four-week limit on the length of time detainees can be held in Dungavel and other centres across the UK.

The BBC figures show that on 7 January this year, there were 185 detainees at Dungavel. Forty-one people had been held for more than three months, 32 for more than six months, and two for over a year.

The Home Office puts asylum seekers and other migrant groups in detention centres to attempt to enforce their removal from the country.

The treatment of people in these centres has been in the spotlight after a Channel 4 documentary exposed incidences of racism and abuse at Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.

Security giant Serco runs Yarl's Wood while Dungavel is run by the GEO group which manages part of Guantanamo Bay.

The All Party Parliamentary Groups on refugees and migrants said that official guidance stating that detention should be used sparingly and for the shortest possible time was being ignored.

While campaigners welcomed the call to put a time limit on detentions, they want the practice stopped completely.

Jerome Phelps of Detention Action was quoted on the BBC as saying."The inquiry is right that it is not enough to tinker with conditions in detention. Only wholesale reform can address the grotesquely inefficient and unjust incarceration of 30,000 migrants a year.

"The UK is isolated in its reliance on enforcement and detention. Detention is not working, either for immigration control or for the people at the sharp end."

Dungavel is the only detention centre in Scotland but there are 12 other centres across England.

In the past, children have been held at the centre, and a 2012 newspaper investigation found that in contravention of Home Office rules, victims of torture had been held at Dungavel.

The SNP pledged to close Dungavel is Scotland voted for independence at the referendum last year.

Picture by Gareth