The No To Hassockfield campaign was set up in early 2021.
We are fighting for the closure of the Women’s Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in County Durham.
Known as Hassockfield when it was announced, it has now been renamed Derwentside IRC by the government. It replaces Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire as the main IRC for women in the UK.
The IRC was run initially for the Home Office by Mitie Group PLC, an outsourcing giant and the largest provider of immigration detention in the UK. Mitie is one of the biggest profiteers of the ongoing hostile environment towards people seeking sanctuary and other migrants. Its two year contract ended in mid 2023 and the Home Office has now engaged another giant company,Serco, on a nine year contract.
WHO ARE WE?
- We come from different backgrounds and careers, brought together by the belief that detention has no place in a humane asylum system, and detaining women is particularly cruel and needless.
- Members hold a wide range of political views but our campaign runs across party lines.
- Members of our group come from the local region but also from beyond North East England. This is incredibly important to us, because what we are witnessing in Hassockfield/Derwentside is not a local problem, it is a national one. And national problems require national efforts.
- No To Hassockfield works closely with other organisations including but not limited to: Keep Campsfield Closed campaign, Detention Forum, Yarls Wood Campaigners, Duncan Lewis Solicitors, Women for Refugee Women, AVID, Women’s Aid, Migrant & Justice Forum, North East Against Racism, West End Refugee Service (WERS), Mental Health North East (MHNE), End Deportations Belfast, Abolish Detention and Durham People’s Assembly.
- We work to see Derwentside IRC closed by influencing public and political opinion.
- We research and publicise information that makes our case, gathered from our networks and other information sources.
- We co-ordinate regular demonstrations outside the gates of the IRC.
- We hold monthly Zoom Meetings for our members, to inform them and encourage activism.
- Our Core Group of active campaigners meets in between for planning and admin purposes.
WHERE IS HASSOCKFIELD?
Hassockfield/Derwentside IRC is situated on a windy hill between Durham and Consett, outside the remote village of Medomsley – a name still notorious locally as the site of the former Medomsley Detention Centre, where large scale abuse of young men in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was uncovered in Operation Seabrook, begun in 2013.
- The site was purchased by the Home Office and its buildings were refurbished following their most recent use as Hassockfield Secure Training Unit for Boys. Cost: approx £18.7 million (data via Home Office FoI request No 68783)
- The IRC opened in December 2021. Initially run on a two year contract by Mitie was paid approx £16.6 million (data from this link to government contract finder) to run the IRC for two years. This works out at almost £100,000 per year for each detainee.
- The IRC has accommodation for around 80 women. It has a constantly shifting number of occupants, detained for different reasons having been refused the right to remain in the UK. They are all held on indefinite detention. The appeal cases of many women held there are often not resolved when they are brought in. In its time under Mitie, the IRC has seldom been more than half full, often holding only a handful of women.
- We hold monthly public zoom meetings to share updates and information, discuss upcoming events and hear from specialists in asylum and immigration policy. Please use our contact form to get in touch for the dates and zoom link.
- On the 1st Sunday of every Month at 3pm a vigil takes place at the site as an opportunity for multiple faiths and religious groups to come together in opposition.
- On the 3rd Saturday of every Month at 12pm a demonstration takes place at the site where we aim to show solidarity with the women detained by making noise, playing music, shouting chants and sharing speeches.
- We try to have a small presence at the site every other Saturday from 11am.
- The IRC is on the Corbridge Road outside Medomsley (DH8 6QY). You can reach it by the X71 bus from Newcastle or buses from Consett Bus Station. We can pass on exact details of the IRC location on request.
- If coming by car, park carefully to avoid causing difficulty to nearby residents.
- If you can support us financially, to help fund our publicity and campaigning, please do donate.
- You can donate via PayPal or Bank Transfer or click the Donate button.
Immigration detention serves no acceptable purpose.
This Immigration Removal Centre is part of a network of ‘facilities’ run by the Home Office in the UK, mostly in southern England near sea or air ports. It has capacity for approximately 80 women and operates similarly to a Category 3 Prison. Women are sent to the IRC because the system indicates their asylum claims have failed or because the government wants to deport them for other reasons.
What does “the end of the asylum application process” mean?
- Some of the women held in immigration detention centres have exercised their right to claim asylum but their claim has not been refused. Others so described will have an appeal or other further challenge in process.
- Others are stateless people: they cannot be deported.
- Still others come from countries such as Iraq or Somalia to which they cannot be deported because it is recognised that it is too dangerous for them to return for a variety of reasons including religious persecution, anti LGBT laws and traditional practices such as FGM.
- Some are time-served former prisoners who do not have a UK passport: The government calls them ‘Foreign National Offenders’. They are ex-offenders. They have served a prison sentence following conviction often for a relatively minor offence, i.e not violence to the person. Everyone should be treated equally before the law. Someone who has served their time should not be doubly punished with deportation should their case still be awaiting resolution.
In 2019 over half – 61% – of the people held in immigration detention centres eventually gained their freedom to live in and contribute to the community. The figure for 2020 was 74%, and for women in 2018 it was 86%.
For most people detained, the Home Office’s decision to detain is successfully challenged.
This is the message we want the country to hear loud and clear: