Dungavel House: From prison to halfway house

ONCE a hunting lodge owned by the Duke of Hamilton, Dungavel first saw public service as an open prison. But it was taken over by the Home Office in 2000 and reopened as an Immigration Removal Centre a year later to house asylum seekers whose applications are refused while awaiting deportation.

The facility sleeps up to 217 detainees and provides on-site medical care, a gymnasium and prayer rooms. A separate resource and learning centre provides access to a range of activities such as learning English and arts and crafts.

However, human rights advocates have long campaigned against the incarceration of asylum seekers and their families as a breach of human rights. In 2002, 40 asylum seekers held at Dungavel went on hunger strike in protest to the length of time it was taking to resolve their cases.

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However, detention of refugee families continued. In 2009, it was reported that more than 100 youngsters had been detained in Dungavel despite promises that children would not be held in asylum centres.

The case of ten-year-old Precious Mhango and her mother Florence, who were held in Dungavel, finally prompted the Scottish Government and the Commons home affairs select committee to call for an end to child detention.

In 2010, the then UK Immigration Minister Damian Green announced that the practice of child detention was to end immediately.

Following the minister’s decision, families detained in Scotland would undergo initial health and welfare screenings at Dungavel, but were then to be transferred to Yarl’s Wood specialist centre in Bedfordshire.