On Saturday, 30th May 2015, we took our banner and our voices to the STUC demonstration at Dungavel – Scotland’s immigration removal centre.
Being newly politically active, this was the first time we had gone to Dungavel and the stark contrast between the leafy surroundings, the beautiful building, and the high, steel, fences topped with razor wire was shocking and offensive.
The Police held us down from the main gates – to minimise the chance of the ‘inmates’ hearing us. The crowd complied with this until near the end of the demonstration when a man, braver than us, said, “Let’s go. Let’s go up to the gate.” We did. The Police turned and walked up with us.
Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.
We do not need detention centres as part of our immigration system – as was noted by one of the speakers, we need to end “arbitrary detention for administrative convenience.” Children are no longer detained at Dungavel but they are within the system – 600 children were detained in the last Westminster administration.
The STUC, the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Scottish Refugee Council wrote to the Home Office and the governor of Dungavel asking to meet with detainees. However, despite the governor offering to facilitate the visit, the request was denied, with a spokesman for the Home Office saying: ‘We can confirm a request to visit Dungavel was received and subsequently declined.’ 
We left Dungavel sad and angry – civil and religious society are not allowed in; David Cameron and Theresa May chose to go on a dawn raid to set out their priorities for the new parliament; but we also heard defiance, solidarity, and a determination to effect change.
We can change this – it won’t be easy but it can be done. The demonstrations at Dungavel and Yarl’s Wood will make a difference and we need to come back time and time again but we can change this system; we need to change this system.