HUNDREDS of people have taken part in a protest outside Dungavel Detention Centre calling for it to be closed down immediately, activists said.

Stop Detention Scotland (SDS) said campaigners, including ex-detainees and asylum seekers, surrounded the centre in South Lanarkshire during the protest today.

Dungavel has long been a political issue, with debates and protests staged regularly around the treatment of detainees and the length of some detentions.

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In September an investigation was launched after a Chinese man was found dead at the centre.

Campaigner Grace Childs, from SDS, said: "30,000 migrants are detained every year. More and more people are detained and as a result we have more deaths, more abuses, more scandals.

"We have had three deaths in three months, including one in Dungavel. It's time to treat migrants as people not a problem."

SDS called on the Scottish Government to take action to make closing the centre a priority, describing it as a "racist and immoral prison".

The Home Office announced last year that the controversial centre was to close at the end of 2017 and a short-term holding centre built in Paisley, Renfrewshire.

However, councillors in Renfrewshire rejected the decision and the Home Office confirmed that Dungavel would remain open.

Commenting on the protest, a Home Office spokesman said: "We respect everyone's right to peaceful protest but we maintain that detention and removal are essential elements of an effective immigration system.

"We will help those with no right to be in the UK who wish to leave voluntarily but when they refuse to do so, we will take steps to enforce their removal.

"All decisions to detain are taken on the individual merits of each case and for the shortest period necessary. We take our responsibilities towards detainees' welfare extremely seriously."