Local people including refugee women join large national protest against immigration detention at Hassockfield-Derwentside detention centre near Consett.
On Saturday 15 October 2022 County Durham residents will join with organisations from across the UK for a national demonstration at the Hassockfield-Derwentside detention centre. Campaigners and groups including Agnes Tanoh (Women for Refugee Women), Abolish Detention, All African Women’s Group, Durham People’s Assembly and No2Hassockfield will protest against detention at Hassockfield-Derwentside. They will be joined by an array of musicians, theatre performers and a samba band in a loud and colourful demonstration of support. Currently, there are around 50 women being locked up at Hassockfield-Derwentside, which occupies the former site of the infamous Medomsley youth prison.
This protest comes at a time when the long-standing right to seek protection in the UK is facing unprecedented attack – with the Government planning to continue with its offshore processing deal with Rwanda and planned expansion of the detention estate and use of detention-like facilities.
It has been confirmed that women are now being targeted by the Government for removal to Rwanda (1). So far charities are aware that three women, all of whom are survivors of trafficking, have been targeted with notices of intent for their removal to Rwanda whilst being held in immigration detention. Rather than offering them protection and the chance to rebuild their lives in the UK, the Government is instead proposing to traffick them against their will to Rwanda. The Rwanda deal has already cost an eye-watering £120 million at a time when public finances are under pressure and ordinary people are facing a cost of living crisis.
The Home Office began detaining women at Hassockfield-Derwentside on 28th December 2021. The detention centre has capacity for 84 women to be locked up at any one time and replaces Yarl’s Wood as the main UK site where women are detained for immigration purposes.
Local people attending are concerned that:
● Detention is deeply harmful and retraumatising. Research has shown that the majority of women who are locked up in immigration detention are survivors of serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape and trafficking (2).
● Detention is unnecessary. The Home Office states that detention is a last resort prior to removing a person from the country, but the vast majority of women locked up in detention are released back into the community to continue with their cases. In 2021, 92% of asylum-seeking women leaving detention were released back into the community, so their detention served no purpose (3). Women’s immigration cases can be resolved more effectively and humanely, and at far less cost, in the community.
Speaking from personal experience
The crowd will hear from speakers with personal experience of detention and the hostile environment, in calls for Hassockfield-Derwentside to be shut down.
The End Detention group, whose members have experienced detention, including in Derwentside, will say:
“Being locked up in detention made us feel humiliated, rejected, and as if we are less than human. The UK is supposed to be a safe country – but when you are detained you are ripped from your life, your mental health is destroyed, and you feel there is no one you can trust.
We need an asylum and immigration system that supports our mental health, handles our cases fairly and treats us with respect and trust. This means letting us live in and be part of our communities. The UK government should treat everyone equally. No one should be treated as if they are less than someone else. No one should be locked up in immigration detention. We just want to be safe.”
Agnes Tanoh from Women for Refugee Women, who started a petition against the detention centre that has been signed by over 16,700 people and is speaking at the protest, will say:
“I fled my home country because of war. I was looking for protection but I was imprisoned for over three months. They called me a liar. But I came to a country where there are people of good heart. So we are grateful to all who believe solidarity has no borders who are stood with us today to protest against Derwentside detention centre. We are shouting today at the protest, there is hope for all of you who are currently detained in Derwentside. No matter how long the night, it’ll be light tomorrow.”
The organising groups also wish to state their solidarity with the brave women in Iran who are protesting against the violent repression of women’s rights by the regime which resulted in the death in custody of 22 year old Mahsa Amini on September 16 following her detention by the ‘Guidance Patrol’ (Iran’s morality police) for showing her hair in public.
(2) For instance, 85% of women seeking asylum who were detained at Yarl’s Wood and participated in Women for Refugee Women’s 2017 research were survivors of sexual or other gender-based violence, including domestic violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and forced prostitution/trafficking: https://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/women-for-refugee-women-reports-we-are-still-here.pdf
(3) Statistics supplied to Women for Refugee Women by the Home Office. These figures show that in 2021, a total of 141 asylum-seeking women left detention. Just 11 of these women (8%) left detention to be removed from the UK; the vast majority, 130 women (92%), were released back into the community, to continue with their cases. The high rate of release back into the community for asylum-seeking women can be seen across previous years’ figures, too. In 2019, before the pandemic started, just 122 (8%) of the 1,550 asylum-seeking women leaving detention were removed from the UK. The vast majority – 1,428 women, or 92% – were released back into the community, to continue with their cases.