WHO ARE WE?
- A group of people passionate about Immigration/Asylum Detention and closing down Hassockfield Immigration Removal Centre, now renamed Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre.
- A cross-party campaign including Labour & Lib Dem activists and a range of people active in their communities working together on the campaign.
- We have public Zoom Meetings and co-ordinate regular demonstrations outside the gates of the Immigration Removal Centre. Meetings of our Core Group occur between these for planning and admin purposes; this group includes a group of active campaigners and also a representative from Detention Forum.
- Other organisations we are linked with include Oxford Against Detention (formerly the Close Campsfield 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 among others.
WHERE IS HASSOCKFIELD?
- 13 miles NW of Durham, 1.7 miles North of Consett.
- On the site of Medomsley Detention Centre, notorious for the abuse of young in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as uncovered in Operation Seabrook – an investigation begun in 2013.
- The site has been purchased by the Home Office and its buildings refurbished following their most recent use as a secure training unit. Cost: approx £18.7 million (data via Home Office FoI request No 68783)
- It opened at the end of December 2021 and is being run on a two year contract by Mitie. Cost: approx £16.6 million (data from this link to government contract finder ) which works out at almost £100,000 per year for each detainee.
- The centre has a constantly shifting number of women occupants, detained for different reasons having been refused the right to remain in the UK, though the appeal cases of many are still ongoing.
WHO IS IN FAVOUR ?
- Conservative MP for North West Durham, Richard Holden is backing it; suggested that it would create 150 jobs (something later revised upwards to 200) and bring £10m into the local economy. No official figures for jobs created are available as yet.His description of those to be detained is not a form of language we would use.
- Local people who back creating any kind of jobs in this economically deprived part of Durham.
- A number of Parliamentary Questions have been asked and are planned, in both Houses & cross-party.
- We have support from a number of Labour and Lib Dem Peers & MPs, with other parties offering support on Social Media (eg the SNP). Alf Dubs spoke to one of our early public meeting, encouraging and inspiring us.
- Alf is also co-ordinating a group of anti-detention groups across the UK and Northern Ireland, including ourselves, to ensure ease of information sharing between all of these groups.
- The Nationality and Borders Bill contains measures relating to immigration removal centres that have been strongly opposed by MPs of all parties.
WHO ARE DETAINED ?
The Immigration Removal Centre, run by the Home Office, has capacity for approximately 80 women and operates similarly to a Category 3 Prison. These are women whose asylum claim have failed, alongside those who have served a prison sentence of more than 12 months, generally for petty crimes, or who have broken immigration laws.
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%. So for most people detained, the Home Office’s decision to detain is successfully challenged. Immigration detention serves no acceptable purpose.
Notes on “People at the end of the asylum application process” :
- In fact 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.