Human rights campaigners have expressed concern over the safety of vulnerable people held at Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre after a sharp rise in crime complaints over the past five years.
A reply by Police Scotland to a freedom of information request has revealed a near trebling of alleged crimes inside Dungavel in South Lanarkshire since 2014, prompting fears over the safety of women and other vulnerable detainees.
Police Scotland said there were 22 allegations of crimes in 2018. These included seven involving “threatening and abusive behaviour”, five “common assaults” and two for possession of drugs.
There was one sexual crime, one incident of fire raising and one regarding vandalism.
The 2018 number matched the total in 2017 when 22 crimes were also reported. This contrasts with 2014 when there were eight claims of crimes in total, including five for common assault.
In July 2018 The Ferret reported that vulnerable women were at risk in Dungavel and that more than 200 vulnerable detainees had been on watch for self harm in 2017.
Labour MSP, Pauline McNeill, said: “The rise in crimes committed at the Dungavel detention centre is extremely alarming. I have long standing concerns about the well-being of people being detained at the site and have been pushing for MSPs to have the right to access the centre.”
“These figures further convince me of the need to allow members of the Scottish Parliament access to the Dungavel detention centre in order to satisfy ourselves of the conditions people are being held in,” she added.
“Given that women are being detained at the site we must be allowed to make sure that safety and well-being of people being detained in Scotland is being upheld.”
Kate Alexander, director of Scottish Detainee Visitors, also expressed concern over vulnerable detainees. “As visitors to people in Dungavel we see every week the stress that indefinite detention causes,” she said.
An increase in crime at Dungavel can only add to the vulnerability people feel when they are detained there. Kate Alexander, Scottish Detainee Visitors
“The latest inspection report found that 41 per cent of the people detained there felt unsafe, largely because of the uncertainty of their situations. An increase in crime at Dungavel can only add to the vulnerability people feel when they are detained there.”
Police Scotland explained in its freedom of information response that it did not have details of any convictions. Police investigate and submit reports to the procurator fiscal, who then decides whether or not to prosecute, they said.
“The disposal in relation to cases reported to the procurator fiscal is not routinely passed to the police, therefore the service does not hold the information requested in relation to convictions.”
In 2018 The Ferret highlighted a report by Stephen Shaw, a former prison ombudsman for England and Wales, on the privately run facility in South Lanarkshire. He raised a number of concerns including the safety of women and the time staff took to section people with serious mental health issues.
Regarding female detainees, he said: “While men and women’s accommodation were separate, women were allowed to mix with men in communal areas if they chose to do so. Women were able to access all services outside the times that men used them, but it was unclear how this worked in practice.”
He added: “I am concerned that there is risk of exploitation, or of vulnerable women being left without access to services and facilities, due to their shared use by men.”
Shaw’s report also reveals that 206 detainees were at risk of self harm in 2017 and that 10 people were returned to the detention centre after being sectioned under mental health law.
There were 42 complaints by detainees received at Dungavel in 2017.
The GEO Group UK Limited referred us to the Home Office, which stressed that it took detainee welfare very seriously. The government “expects the highest standards from those who manage the detention estate on its behalf,” said a Home Office spokesperson.
“We do not tolerate any kind of criminal activity in our immigration removal centres, and any allegation of a criminal offence is immediately reported to the police for investigation.”