Human Rights, Migrants, Movement, Multiculture, Politiks, Struggles, Workers

Dungavel, the battle to close the castle of shame

Despite the original announcement, the notorious migrant detention center will not be closed by the government. The children who have been detained there are part of it’s notorious history.  Opponents of the centre will not give up however, and a protest rally will take place on 12th March.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Marcos Ortiz Finch


At 13 years old, Beriwan Ay spoke the best English of anyone in her family. Locked up with her mother and her three siblings in the Dungavel detention centre in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, this adolescent Kurdish refugee was trying to make her, and her family’s voice heard.

Crowded in one room for the five of them, the Ay family wanted it to be known that they were not willing to be deported back to Turkey, where they had been persecuted. Salih, the father of the family, had already been deported to Germany just days before.

It was 2002. After having been taken from their home in Kent without warning, where the children were attending school, the children and their mother were locked up for 13 months waiting for some kind of solution.

Photo: Indymedia

The youngest of them, Medya, was barely 7 years old. Her siblings were suffering from tremors, their hair was falling out and they had constant nightmares. After the 13 months locked up, the five members of the Ay family would end up being sent to Germany, but the damage had already been done.

Their extended stay in the detention centre was due to the mother’s decision to appeal. In Dungavel, which was built in the 19th Century by the Dukes of Hamilton and was known as “The Castle”, there was no way for the children to continue their education while they were there. The four children were treated as prisoners and were only allowed out for two hours of exercise outdoors each day.

The tension of the situation increased and there were threats against the government because of the violations of the minor’s rights.

The opponents of the infamous Immigration Removal Centre at Dungavel which houses 249 detainees celebrated the fact that in September 2016, the authorities announced that they would be closing the centre by the end of 2017.

Finally, a story which had begun in 2001 would be coming to an end. The detention centre, which is run by the US company, GEO Group – who are specialists in prisons, detention centres and mental health centres – would be replaced by a new centre where nobody would stay for longer than five days.

But the good news only lasted for a few months.  Everything fell apart when the government decided to back down and to keep on running the Dungavel centre.

Photo: Indymedia

“Dungavel has long been a symbol of everything which is wrong with our immigration system and many have suffered inside its walls”, stated Grahame Smith, the secretary general of the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress).

“We believe that the closure of Dungavel could have been the first step towards the creation of a better asylum project which is more humane and we will continue to campaign for it’s closure,” Smith added.

Opposition to Dungavel is not just lip service, on Sunday 12th March 2017, at 1pm there will be a demonstration against the centre in front of its main entrance.

The organisers have arranged transportation for people who will be attending, departing from Glasgow City Chambers from 11:30 am on the day.

More information available here.

(Translated by Peter Savin – Email:

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