The Scottish Government is urgently seeking clarification on the treatment of asylum seekers facing deportation from Scotland after the Home Office confirmed it will close the immigration removals centre at Dungavel, in South Lanarkshire.
Charities working with asylum seekers welcomed the closure of the controversial detention centre, but several groups also raised concerns after the UK government said it would build a new “short-term holding facility” near Glasgow Airport.
Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said: “The new short-term holding facility would provide easy access to London airports, from where most removals take place, meaning those with no right to be in the UK can be removed with less delay.” Mr Goodwill said closing Dungavel “will result in a significant saving for the public purse”.
David Bradwell, from the Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, said Dungavel had become “a byword in Scotland for some of the most frightening aspects of seeking asylum in the UK”.
However, Mr Bradwell said he feared asylum seekers held in Scotland for more than a week would be transferred to removals centres “hundreds of miles away” as a result of the closure.
Gary Christie, from the Scottish Refugee Council, warned asylum seekers challenging their deportation faced additional legal barriers because Scottish solicitors cannot represent clients transported to England.
Communities secretary Angela Constance said the Scottish Government supported a “more humane” alternative to Dungavel, but said asylum seekers faced “serious impacts on their mental health” if they are separated from friends and family.
Dungavel drew controversy over the detention of children awaiting deportation, a practice ended in 2010. However, a specialist family deportation unit set up in 2011 is now also due to close, meaning children will once again be held alongside adults.
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said more work was needed to create a “fair and humane” immigration system.