Human rights campaigners will gather for their regular demonstration outside Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (known locally as Hassockfield Prison) today to demonstrate their support for the women currently incarcerated in the centre. The protest is the 21st monthly demonstration to take place in addition to regular interfaith vigils, three national demonstrations and various peaceful solidarity actions.
The controversial new Illegal Migration Bill passed its second reading on 13 March, prompting human rights campaigners to be more concerned than ever for the rights of those seeking safety in the UK.
No to Hassockfield campaign
Mel Kakkar, a member of the No to Hassockfield campaign group said:
“The effects of the government’s cruel hostile environment on people seeking humanitarian protection cannot be overstated. The notion of automatically detaining everybody that has arrived by small boat and deeming them to be illegal immigrants is appalling. People arriving via this method are doing so because they are desperate. Many have experienced human rights abuses and extreme violence. They are often traumatised and in need of care and rehabilitation. We know that detention has a significant detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people, so the plan to increase immigration detention will only lead to poorer health outcomes for those people. Detention facilities like Hassockfield have no place in a compassionate asylum system.”
Women, not “illegal immigrants”
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 many people will be celebrating Mothers’ Day on Sunday, many of the women locked up inside Hassockfield will be grieving the loss of their families and loved ones.
One of the groups joining the demonstration on Saturday is Woman, Life, Freedom, a Newcastle based group campaigning for the human rights of women in Iran. Parisa Panahi said:
“The Iranian community of Newcastle stand by the women of Hassockfield detention centre. No innocent human being should be behind those walls and we should all stand by Woman, Life, Freedom slogans. Solidarity.”
Demonstrators today will share messages and Mother’s Day cards with detained women in a show of solidarity and support. Campaigners have previously handed flowers for the women imprisoned to guards on International Women’s Day, and during last year’s period of national mourning.
Dr. Helen Groom from No To Hassockfield said:
“We know from listening to migrants who have been incarcerated in other detention centres in the UK, that it’s important for them to know there are people around the centre who support them and want their human rights to be protected.
Taking the decision to leave your own home to make the dangerous journey to the UK (costly in all ways) is a massive step, particularly for women, even more so if you are a mother. The women in Hassockfield/Derwentside will have made that decision because they believed the UK would be a place of sanctuary. Arriving in the UK and being locked up in a prison, far from any family or friends, let alone adequate legal or social support, is devastating. Far from receiving sanctuary we know that they often lose all hope and become depressed and suicidal. We will continue to have a presence at the site monthly and weekly, in our smaller demonstrations and monthly prayer vigil, in order to let them know, with our singing, cards and flowers, that we stand with them and against current government policy”.