Indefinite detention creates a ‘suicide culture’

Indefinite detention creates a ‘suicide culture’

Written by: Harmit Athwal

A Scottish NGO is calling on Amnesty International and the UNHCR to investigate the ‘suicide culture’ at Dungavel detention centre.

Dungavel detention centre in Scotland, one of three immigration detention centres to detain children, has now been open for three years. To mark those years, Positive Action in Housing (PAIH), a Glasgow-based charity, has produced a dossier on detentions and conditions at Dungavel.

The dossier is particularly important because of the suicide of 23-year-old Vietnamese man Tung Wang at the prison. Tung Wang was one of hundreds of asylum seekers transferred from Harmondsworth detention centre in the aftermath of a disturbance in July 2004. Ironically, the trigger for the disturbance at Harmondsworth was another suicide – that of a 31-year-old Ukrainian man – found hanged in the early hours of 19 July 2004.


PAIH is critical of the length of time asylum seekers are detained and the psychological impact of such undetermined length of detention. The group finds that ‘Dungavel Removal Centre cannot cope with the suicide culture it has created, particularly amongst long-term detainees. There is a definite pattern emerging of asylum seekers being held for long, indefinite periods up to two years, and then being transferred to prison when their spirits break.’ The group is calling on Amnesty International and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to investigate their allegations.

Names not numbers

We publish below extracts from the dossier which reveal, through the cases, the misery that is Dungavel.

  • Andre Aliev, a Russian asylum seeker detained for almost 19 months since January 2003. In early August 2004, he was taken to Greenock Prison from Dungavel after becoming depressed. He sewed up his lips and went on hunger strike in protest at his continued imprisonment and length of detention.
  • Vassel Gabbes, a Palestinian man who was held at Greenock Prison with Andre Aliev and who also went on hunger strike in protest at his imprisonment and length of detention. On 1 September 2004 he was transferred to the newly opened ‘High security’ Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre in Middlesex.
  • John Oguchuckwu and Mustafa Mohammed, both held at Greenock prison. John Oguchuckwu is a 27-year-old student priest from Nigeria. He was detained in Dungavel for eight months and sent to Greenock after alerting the press to the suicide of Vietnamese man Tung Wang at Dungavel. John has also become depressed and was on suicide watch for a time. John shares his cell with a Palestinian man, Mustafa Mohammed, whom he has befriended. Mustafa was detained at Dungavel for six months and then sent to Greenock where he has been for five months. He is only 20-years-old and is very confused and upset. He speaks little English.
  • Aven Hung, a 31-year-old Chinese asylum seeker, is currently being detained in Dungavel where he has already been for 25 months.
  • Tung Wang, was a 23-year-old Vietnamese asylum seeker. He had been detained for 12 months and ‘simply gave up hope of ever being released’ when he was found hanged inside a toilet at Dungavel on 23 July 2004.
  • Sarah Richards, a South African woman detained in Dungavel was then transferred to Cornton Vale prison in August 2004 after speaking to the press about the suicide of Tung Wang. (For further details see Names not numbers).

Related links

Full text of the Postive Action in Housing Dungavel Dossier (pdf file, 128k)

Positive Action in Housing

Close Dungavel Now

The human cost of immigration detention – IRR news story

Positive Action in Housing is a not-for-profit, advocacy, campaigns and training charity working in partnership with communities and organisations.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

One thought on “Indefinite detention creates a ‘suicide culture’

  1. Sadly, suffering represents an excellent means of showing Whites how strong the spirit of the darker-skinned (&, in fact, any other foreigner) they hate really is. If detainees can survive detention, then there’s nothing that Whites can ever throw at them at a later date that will anywhere near half as worse. The suicide culture in any UK detention facility is a deliberate creation to help ‘solve’ the problem of the existence of those who presume to think they can migrate as they please. From the White point-of-view it’s one less non-White, non-British mouth to feed: Witness the jubilation of Home Secretary David Blunkett when serial murderer Harold Shipman killed himself. It’s important that detainees get their stories out to the wider world since this is what Whites fear the most – the revelation of their inherent racism. This, in itself, will enable detainees to have some kind of sense-of-reality given that some people outside actually care for their wellbeing as human beings. It’s this cutting off from reality that Whites hope will punish detainees for presuming to believe they’re as good as Whites. It’s also an attempt to indicate to would-be asylum seekers, now abroad, that they can expect nothing but White Racism if they successfully enter the UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.