Bishop William Nolan, President of Justice and Peace Scotland and Bishop of Galloway, took part in a protest at Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre yesterday, Sunday 25th November. In his address, the Bishop described the centre as "an absolute scandal" and "a blot on the Scottish landscape," and called for a just and humane treatment for asylum seekers from the UK government.
Bishop Nolan said: "This past week is Prisoners Week, and I've been visiting the two prisons I have in my diocese. There's one in Kilmarnock and there's one in Dumfries and I'm here today at the immigration centre. There was a time when there wasn't any fence here. That's when it was an open prison. Now its an immigration removal centre and there's a big fence there and its a prison in everything else but name.
"The difference between this prison and the other two prisons I was in earlier on this week is that in those prisons the people know how long they are going to be held - whereas here people can be held indefinitely and its an absolute scandal that the United Kingdom among all the major European countries is the one place where there is no limit on how long asylum seekers and migrants can be detained.
"That's an absolute and utter disgrace. So it's not just that we should be campaigning for the closure of this place, but also .. that justice should be established. Criminals and those that have committed crimes are treated better than those who come to this country seeking asylum."
Bishop Nolan commended those who have been have been campaigning for the closure of Dungavel for several years.
He said: "Dungavel is a blot on the Scottish landscape. We want a country where migrants and those who seek asylum are met with compassion and understanding. They shouldn't be locked up and treated as criminals but allowed to live in the community where they can be supported while their cases are being assessed. And your presence here in support of those who are detained is a sign to them that they are not forgotten and that the people of this country do care. Our presence here is also a thorn on the flesh of this UK government holding them to a change of heart and a change of policy."
The Bishop concluded by expressing his admiration for "Those who have been coming year on year out to this cold miserable and rather bleak place to show by your presence, solidarity and support to those inside."
Linda Fabiani MSP, Christine McKelvie MSP and Eileen Campbell MSP also addressed the protest.
In a statement campaigners said: The UK remains the only country in Europe without a time limit on immigration detention. Immigration Detention Centres are draconian institutions which should have no place in the UK in 2018. They facilitate the UK Government's 'Hostile Environment' policy. These 'prisons' are also hugely expensive, detaining one person for a year cost approximately £30,000 and with thousands being detained every year this is money which should be better spent. We want to see an end to immigration detention and the hostile environment policies currently being used by the UK Government and we urge a return to policies which uphold the inherent human dignity which, as children of God, every person has."
The Dungavel Solidarity Gathering is supported by Ayrshire Hope Not Hate, Global Justice Glasgow and Justice and Peace Scotland.
See Bishop Nolan's address here: www.facebook.com/1478359652422681/posts/2166770196914953/
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