Who are the women locked up in Derwentside IRC? The Home Office doesn’t want us to know – we campaigners are certainly not told anything, and although the quarterly immigration statistics are pubicly available, there is little to glean from them about the facts we care about.
What grounds have been used to incarcerate them? How long does their ‘indefinite detention’ last? Where have they been taken from, whether another detention centre or from their home in the UK? How many are receiving their rightful chance to get their case seen to? Silence and obfuscation is all we get back from such questions…. But we do know that of those who make it through the system, most are allowed to stay in the UK.
Our January demonstration took place just after the government’s ‘Rwanda Plan’ had again been shown to be deeply flawed, even if the new Rwanda Safety Bill did pass through the Commons. Whilst Rishi Sunak might want it to be so, Rwanda doesn’t and cannot in law become a ‘safe’ country just because the British government deems it such. Indeed, 38 Rwandans who sought sanctuary in the UK had been granted refugee status. Rwanda will not take LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and the British police do not regard the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, as a safe pair of hands, as Rwandans living in Britain have been warned by the police of potential threats from Kagame’s agents. Despite the prime minister’s rhetoric, campaigners believe that the British public increasingly believe that this policy is cruel, unworkable and a criminal waste of money that is desperately needed for investment in our public services.
The statistics do reveal that far fewer women than men seek asylum in the UK, quite understandably. But the desperation of those women who do risk life and limb makes their asylum requests all the more urgent. Time and again, women in detention have been granted asylum when given the tools and support to prove their right to it. This is why we continue to say that Derwentside is no place in which to pursue their claims.
In the days ahead their will be powerful speeches in the Lords against the bill. The case for a different approach to immigration will be made again and again. We’ll be supporting these calls.