A group of campaigners from South Yorkshire, including people who had been detained in Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Centre, drove up this weekend to support our regular joint demonstration of solidarity with Abolish Detention and Durham People’s Asembly outside Derwentside IRC (known locally as Hassockfield). The protest is the 21st monthly demonstration to take place, alongside regular interfaith vigils, three national demonstrations and various peaceful solidarity actions over the past two years.
Also joining the demonstration was ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’, a Newcastle based group campaigning for the human rights of women in Iran.
Parisa Panahi from ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ said,
“We stand in solidarity with all people and all women in this detention centre, whether they are white, black from Iran, Iraq, Africa, we stand by them to make sure that these walls fall. We will continue to support the No To Hassockfield Campaign until we make sure the detention centres are shut down. Solidarity with all the women in the world. Women, life freedom.”
With UK Mothers Day this weekend, statistically many of th0se held in the IRC will be mothers – and all will be missing their own parents and families. So campaigners were asked to make cards during the protest containing messages of support and solidarity, in French, Romanian, Farsi, English, Chinese and Russian – some of the many mother tongues sp0ken by women who have found themselves locked up here.
As part of the protest, campaigners released orange flares and chanted next to the fence closest to the accommodation blocks.
Helen Groom, from our campaign, said,
“Women inside the prison could hear the protesters, and those standing outside their blocks were screaming HELP ME and HELP US.”
At the end of the protest, campaigners walked beyond the locked entrance gates down to the IRC and handed the cards to guards waiting for them at the front door, asking them to give the cards to the women inside.
Mel Kakkar, a member of the No to Hassockfield campaign, said,
“It felt really important to go down to the front door to deliver the cards to the women inside with messages of support, especially this weekend when so many of us are celebrating with our mothers and spending time with our families. On Mothers Day we spend time thinking about the importance of the women in our lives. There is so much negativity around immigration and people seeking asylum at the moment, led by our government, it feels really important to get messages of support and solidarity to the women imprisoned in the centre. This is a really important part of our campaign.”
Derwentside IRC is the UK’s main immigration detention facility for women deemed to be “illegal immigrants” or “foreign criminals”. Detainees have often been relocated from all over the UK and are many miles from their families. Whilst people up and down our country will be celebrating Mother’s Day on Sunday, many of the women locked up inside Hassockfield will instead be grieving the loss of their families and loved ones.
Credits to Simone Rudolphi for images, except 2 and 10