Pledge to end indefinite detention is welcome

Dungavel sign
Sign outside Dungavel (Photo: Duncan Brown)

Scottish Refugee Council welcomes the pledge made last week by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper that Labour would end the indefinite detention of migrants and asylum seekers.

The UK is the only country in Europe that uses detention with no official end date, with people being locked up for as long as four years with no information about when they will be released.

Labour has said that it would fix a time limit following consultation. A recent inquiry into detention published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, led by Sarah Teather MP, recommended a 28-day limit for immigration detention.

Deeply scarring

Cooper said: “Indefinite detention of people who have committed no crime is wrong. It can be deeply scarring – especially for asylum-seekers who have already suffered abuse. And it is extremely expensive. No other Western nation does it. We don’t need to either.”

Scottish Refugee Council, as well as welcoming the idea of a fixed time limit, has long argued for limits on the extent to which people are moved around from one detention centre to another, particularly between England and Scotland. People who are moved often lose contact with their lawyer or solicitor, which in turn often has a negative impact on their asylum claim, as well as losing touch with family and support networks.

Meanwhile, there is continued concern about the reported ongoing hunger strike within Dungavel. Scottish Refugee Council has, along with other organisations, asked the Home Office for access to the centre to ascertain the welfare of detainees, but this has not yet been granted.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil has also written to Home Secretary Theresa May expressing concern about conditions at the Scottish centre.

Read former detainee and activist Pinar Aksu’s blog

Read the Westminster Detention Inquiry report