The Home Office said it only detains people for the shortest period necessary but dozens of asylum seekers have been held at Dungavel immigration removal centre (IRC) in South Lanarkshire for months, new figures releasedto BBC Scotland reveal. In some cases detainees were held for more than a year.
"The difference between prison and detention is that in prison you count your days down and in detention you count your days up," ‘Sol’ told BBC Scotland.
"It's mental torture. It's so scary. You don't know when you will be released. You don't know when you'll be deported. You are in limbo." explained “Sol” who had spent two and a half years in Dungavel, and a total of three and a half years in detention, more than three times as long as his initial prison sentence.
Dr Katy Robjant is a psychiatrist found that those who were detained for more than 30 days had higher instances of mental health problems than those held for shorter periods. She told BBC Scotland: "Research has shown that long term detention is linked to mental health problems including anxiety, depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
"From my clinical experience, clients often report PTSD symptoms that are directly linked to the experience of detention. For example, nightmares or intrusive memories about being in detention or about experiences they witnessed while in detention such as seeing other detainees injured whilst resisting removal attempts, seeing other detainees on hunger strike or self-harm."
Campaigners welcomed the cross-party parliamentary committee’s call to end indefinite detention and added that the practice should be stopped altogether. Jerome Phelps of Detention Action said: "The inquiry is right that it is not enough to tinker with conditions in detention. Only wholesale reform can address the grotesquely inefficient and unjust incarceration of 30,000 migrants a year."
According to the Home Office, the average cost of keeping one detainee in an IRC in 2014 was £97 per night. Dungavel is the only detention centre in Scotland. There are 12 others across England. Previously, children have been held at the centre, and in 2012 a newspaper investigation found that victims of torture had been held at Dungavel, despite this being against Home Office rules, unless in exceptional circumstances.