THEY left her in a room on her own with no food or water for four hours. An officer gave the following reassurance, she later told us: “Don’t worry about Dungavel – it’s just like a big disco or big cinema.” That wasn’t how she described it when she was returned to us.

THIS month the campaigning organisation Detention Action is focusing on the pernicious state effects of immigration detention. This campaign, #Unlocked17, comes in the wake of several tragic deaths in detention of those pushed to the very limits of mental endurance and compelled to take their own lives.

It also follows the revelations, known to those of us living with the blight of detention in our lives day in and day out, of the effects of the outsourcing by the UK Government of the running of the detention estate for profit by a range of providers, notably G4S.

READ MORE: Hundreds protest outside controversial detention centre in Scotland

This has been revealed by a BBC Panorama programme shown last month to be a source of shocking institutionalised abuse.

My family’s personal experiences of immigration detention occurred most acutely in 2009-2010, when our foster daughter was detained when signing in at the UKBA Reporting Centre in Govan, Glasgow.

She was 16 years old. As such she was a minor, detained on her own, first in Dungavel Removal Centre and then in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre. Prior to this I’d volunteered for several years with Scottish Detainee Visitors, regularly visiting those detained at Dungavel.

Much of this article is an extract from our family’s submission to the Detention Inquiry of 2015. The very clear recommendations of this inquiry, and those of the Shaw Review, have yet to be implemented by the UK Government.

In a daze and with shaky breath and a mind racing into overdrive, I packed up her belongings from her room, including an Easter egg she had been given by friends, a small bean bag teddy bear, and some nail polish. We took these belongings up to Dungavel – an hour away by car – during visiting hours that evening. We tried to offer reassurance about the things we were doing to help her case, but with limited English in common and in a state of extreme fear this was not easy to communicate. As I left her in the visits room I began to cry.

During our foster daughter’s time in Dungavel we renewed attempts at helping her case and began a campaign through our community networks.

We visited her every evening and also took items for her. We were not able to speak to her by telephone as her phone had been removed from her, and her SIM card (on which were the remaining details of her family back home) had been destroyed.

This latter point is still a cause for great anger in our family. It meant that for three years she was unable to gain any news of the plight of her family. The Easter egg, bean bag teddy bear and nail polish were confiscated from her too and put in HMIP bags in a locker. We were given these to bring home and told she would not be allowed to take them with her out of the country.

After one week of hard work on her case with her lawyer we were successful in gaining an application for judicial review with release, together with legal aid to pursue her case.

We received the news on a Friday afternoon and told our daughter that she would be released on Monday, after the weekend. On Saturday, however, we received the news that she was to be moved to Yarl’s Wood that night. We desperately tried to find an advocate who could prevent this move, but it was the weekend and she was woken from her bed in the night and taken in a caged van to Yarl’s Wood overnight. By Sunday she was in Yarl’s Wood.

We spent two hours on the telephone on hold trying to speak to her and were repeatedly refused by the operators in Yarl’s Wood. Each time we telephoned we were told a different story as to what she was doing (embroidery; hair plaiting; beauty bar; sleeping; sport; meals) We now know that none of this was true. She was in her room crying incessantly.

“Yarl’s Wood is the place where women cry all the time” she told us later. She asked for an extra blanket as she was cold at night and was given a tea towel. To this day, when washing up at home, she will hold up a tea towel and call it a ‘Yarl’s Wood Blanket’.

She asked for a glass of milk to drink and was given a miniature carton such as you are given with tea on a train.

Whenever we telephoned we were put on hold for up to two hours at time (we subsequently made a complaint to the immigration removal centre and it was upheld) and in what to both of us appears to be depraved indifference and considered cruelty the canned music played for us to listen to as we waited had the following lyrics “Don’t be afraid that I am leaving. Be strong on the surface” followed by “Summer is over. The Innocent have never laughed. Drenched In my pain … here comes the rain.”

Then finally, and with extraordinary callousness given that our daughter’s journey to the UK had involved being shipwrecked in the Mediterranean: “Baby, keep my head about the water, let me swim for my life.”

Her new mobile had been removed from her again, but she called us on phones from other detainees during the week before she was due to be removed.

With eight hours to go before her plane was due to leave we received the news that the lawyer’s application had been successful and that she was granted a judicial review with release.

At 5am the following morning the security guards in Yarl’s Wood woke our daughter and told her to pack her belongings as she would removed with immediate effect. She protested but was threatened and so she hastily packed her belongings and went down to reception with the guards.

She waited there in the foyer for the van to the airport. The van arrived and the guards who had made her pack then turned round and laughed at her and said that they had only been joking.

She was released later that day, given a one-way ticket to Glasgow and put on a train at Bedford station. She had not been able to telephone to let us know and eventually arrived at our house after taking a taxi from the station, around 10 hours later. We were of course desperate with worry.

The effects of our daughter’s detention and this experience on our family and community (together with the long, public campaign for justice, which resulted in her being recognised as a refugee in 2011) have been profound.

My own trust in the immigration and detention system of the UK has been entirely shattered by this experience.

Our foster daughter was lucky as she had parents who knew how to work within the labyrinthine system, are articulate and well-educated, with a strong support network, loving family and with financial resources to pay considerable private legal bills.

We know of many others who have not been so lucky and who we have consequently lost to the system.

Alison Phipps is UNESCO Professor Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts and Co-Convener of Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network at the University of Glasgow