National demonstration to be staged in Durham against Derwentside Immigration Centre

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A national demonstration has been organised in Durham on 14th May about the Derwentside Immigration Centre (IRC), built on the site of the former Hassockfield centre. The site has been in operation since December last year, with approximately 80 women being held in detention at the site. 

The groups demonstrating against the site are protesting because “many of the women incarcerated at Hassockfield are innocent of any criminal activities and are detained for unjust, unnecessary and inhuman administrative purposes” .

They also believe that the site “resurfaces trauma and renders women especially, extremely vulnerable”, especially given that the “majority of women within immigration detention have endured unimaginable trauma from human trafficking, modern slavery, torture, abuse and gender-based violence”

The demonstrators are calling for the site to be closed immediately, and for the buildings that make up the Derwentside IRC located near Consett to be used for the benefit of the local economy instead.

The group have question the use of the services of the facilities management company Mitie, with the group saying that Mitie’s services represent an “obscene waste of all our money”. Earlier this year, students called on Durham University to end their contract with Mitie over its links with Derwentside IRC. 

“Many of the women incarcerated at Hassockfield are innocent of any criminal activities”

‘National Demonstration against Hassockfield Immigration Prison’ via facebook

The event will feature twelve speakers in total including Mary Foy (the MP for Durham City), Kate Fox (writer and broadcaster) and Mariam Yusuf (a member of the group Women Asylum Speakers Together). 

The site, originally known as the Hassockfield Immigration Centre, has garnered widespread controversy with several local groups speaking out against the site’s opening. Groups that have spoken out include Durham Action for Refugees (STAR), ‘NoToHassockfield’, national charity Women for Refugee Women (WfRW), local faith groups and local residents such as Owen Temple.

Several lawsuits have also been opened against the site, with claims being centered around the fact that the site does not allow for in-person legal aid to be offered to detainees residing at Derwentside.

Women for Refugee Women wrote on their website that “Unlike in other detention centres where men are detained, women at Derwentside are only able to access legal advice over the phone. Despite assurances in the Equality Impact Assessment that an in-person service would be available, the Home Office opened Derwentside without this in place”.

“We…wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice making it clear that we viewed the use [of Derwentside IRC] as ‘unacceptable'”

Durham county council

Durham County Council have previously said to Palatinate that “While the council did not have legal grounds to stop the development, a motion opposing the use as a detention centre was passed at a full meeting of the authority in July of last year.

“As a result of this motion, we subsequently wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice making it clear that we viewed the use as ‘unacceptable’ and that we instead wished the site to be used for housing as had been planned.”

The site has since also received more national attention, with a formal complaint to the Home Secretary being made by Mary Foy MP In Parliament, with nearly 20 written questions about the site being submitted by parliamentarians to the Home Office. Several protests have already taken place around the site since its opening.

The National Demonstration to ‘Shut Down Hassockfield’ will be held on the 14th of May at Palace Green between 12-3pm.

Image Credit: Simone J. Rudolphi (Twitter: @scenebysimone)

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