The Renfrewshire Council Planning Committee recently rejected a proposal for an immigration detention centre after receiving pressure from protesters.
Dungavel, a remote location around 50 miles south of Glasgow, is the site of an immigration detention centre which is due to close late next year. The Home Office proposes to build a new facility in its place that would be used to rapidly remove detained asylum seekers.
In response to this rejection, a spokesperson from The Home Office stated that they were disappointed as “a new short-term holding facility in Scotland would provide a modern and secure facility for those with no right to be in the UK and would allow for the closure of Dungavel immigration removal centre”.
The description of the Facebook group organising the protest against the construction stated: “This new fast track facility marks a shift in Home Office immigration policy that will see refugees and migrants with ongoing asylum claims removed within 7 days. Once refugees are removed from Scotland, they will have no access to legal support, essentially putting an end to their asylum claim, having a devastating impact on the lives of many refugees.”
One of the highlighted issues is that many of the detained people in the new Dungavel Removal Centre would be asylum seekers and vulnerable people.
The Home Office’s new proposal is part of a wider immigration policy where detention is frequently framed as an integral part of the UK’s immigration control. The UK is currently one of Europe’s largest detention estates and despite this, there was an 11% increase in the amount of people in detention at the end of June between 2014 and 2015.
In a study on Yarl Wood – another immigration detention center – it was found that over half of the 34 women detainees interviewed had been raped in their home countries. Significantly, this contrasts with the UNHCR (The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) assertion that “victims of torture and other serious physical, psychological or sexual violence… should generally not be detained”.
There has been a growing scrutiny on immigration detention centres such as Dungavel, especially those which have been accused of contradicting human rights.
The rejection of The Home Office’s proposal by the Renfrewshire Planning Committee may indicate a growing scrutiny of the detention system in search of a more humane alternative to meet the needs of vulnerable detainees.