Leader comment: Questions over new Dungavel holding centre

Jay Ilunga (left), aged 2 and his brother Ahmad, 4, sit outside the Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre as part of a protest. Picture: PA

Jay Ilunga (left), aged 2 and his brother Ahmad, 4, sit outside the Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre as part of a protest. Picture: PA

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The announcement that Dungavel removal centre in Lanarkshire was to close was greeted with widespread approval, it was an insitution that enjoyed little support and sparked much protest.

Even when it stopped detaining children in 2010 it remained controversial and was often criticised for being a prison for people who had committed no crime and for the length of time immigrants were incarcerated there.

And now the plans for the centre that will replace it have been published. The Home Office wants to build a 51-bed “short-term holding facility” on Abbotsinch Road on a former British Airways social club. Irony probably not intended.

And we know it will have a 3.6m fence round it and that it needs to be “robust in order to hold individuals detained by Home Office Immigration enforcement”. One person’s robust detention centre may well be another person’s prison, but it does seem unavoidable that there will need to be some security if those facing deportation are to be prevented from simply disappearing in to the landscape. What is more important is how they are treated while there.

And there are greater doubts over this new facility. The vast majority of stays would be for less than a week, it is said. And this centre can accommodate 51 whereas Dungavel could hold up to 249. This new centre is near Glasgow airport to ensure better communication with the London airports of departure. But unless there are major changes in the system it seems logical that people flown from Glasgow will simply be spending long periods of time hundreds of miles away, and that will be a step backwards, not forwards.

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