New visitor, Emma Hill, describes her first visit to Dungavel with SDV
My first visit to Dungavel is on a cold January evening. I meet the other volunteers in central Glasgow. I’m a little apprehensive about my first visit but they are all very experienced and are happy to answer lots of questions as we make the long journey in the dark. We head off on the M74, inching through particularly heavy traffic. Coming off the motorway, the roads become smaller and emptier, and the snow thicker on the ground
We arrive at Dungavel and in the dark it looks like a Scottish country residence, with its rounded towers and tidy lawn. It does not look like it should be a detention centre until we get closer, and the high, barbed fencing becomes evident.
We park in a snowy, roughly shovelled carpark and are buzzed into an entryway, enclosed with mesh and corrugated plastic. We wait some time in the cold, stamping our feet to stay warm, until we are given entry to the Dungavel compound itself
Once in reception, there is paperwork to be done. We mill about in the foyer, and I study the signs on the wall that tell me that I am welcome to Dungavel, that families are welcome here too. Another tells me – and the families – of the possible consequences should we contravene the conditions of our visit.
We are relieved of our coats and bags and given wristbands. I am fingerprinted and photographed – the other volunteers are already on the system.
Once we have been searched, we are let into the visiting room. It’s surprisingly pleasant in a controlled, institutional sense, and reminds me of some of the day rooms I have seen in hospitals. The guards collect the people we are visiting and let them in.
The man I talk to tells me his situation is very bad. I ask how long he has been here and he tells me since February last year. He hands me a letter to explain, and I read a list of judgements and appeals that cover two pages. He says he was detained in Northern Ireland and has no friends or family in Scotland.
The guard brings the visit to an end at 8.30. We collect our belongings and head out. As we leave, there is a man, on his own in the snow, smoking at the edge of the lawn. He is someone who has talked to SDV before, and he waves at us. We wave back and leave him there as we exit the compound, and begin our journey back to Glasgow.
If Emma’s sparked your interest about visiting Dungavel, why not look at our get involved page to find out more about applying to join SDV?