Campaigners were at at the Hassockfield/Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) on Saturday 15 July 12-2pm to demonstrate their support for the women who are imprisoned at the centre. This week has witnessed a ‘continuation of parliamentary “ping-pong” between the government, its own senior Tory back-benchers and the House of Lords over the current ‘Illegal Migration Bill’. Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the bill as “morally unacceptable” and the former Tory Prime Minister, Teresa May, has said the bill “will consign more people to slavery” and that she will “persist in disagreeing with the government”.
On 30 June the Independent Monitoring Board which visits Derwentside IRC on a weekly basis published its first annual report which said:
The remote location of Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre is unsuitable, and leads to unfair and, in some respects, inhumane treatment of the women held there, many of whom are vulnerable and may have experienced trafficking.
- Unlike the male immigration detention centres in England, Derwentside is located hundreds of miles from the UK’s principal airports and other detention centres, meaning women are subject to lengthy transfers, often at night and often with a disruptive overnight stay at another secure facility.
- Family visits are a rarity, and the inadequate communications infrastructure makes it difficult for women to maintain contact with their support networks.
- Some vulnerable women were detained for months after their release had been approved, because of delays in finding appropriate accommodation. The chair of the IMB at Derwentside, Jane Leech MBE said:
The chair of the IMB at Derwentside, Jane Leech MBE said:
“Given the concerns we have highlighted about Derwentside’s location throughout our first year of monitoring, we are asking the Immigration Minister to reconsider its suitability as an immigration removal centre. We feel that these long and frequent journeys, combined with difficulties in maintaining family contact, are damaging to the women concerned – bearing in mind that many are extremely vulnerable, and may well have been trafficked.”
The report details the conditions the women live in and the numbers of women detained. This reveals that the centre has never been full with the average number of women detained being less than 25 a month, and many staying for a few days only. Campaigners believe that over 80 staff are employed to keep these vulnerable women locked up. Every taxpayer should be asking why so much public money is being wasted especially during a cost-of-living crisis with public services such as the NHS being hugely under-funded.
No to Hassockfield
Emma Pearson from No to Hassockfield said:
“We are angry, though sadly unsurprised, at the findings from the recent Independent Monitoring Board Report on Derwentside IRC. The report confirms what we have been saying for over two years since before Derwentside was even opened: that this site is completely unfit to function as an immigration removal centre. It is inhumane for a number of reasons, and is causing immense, unnecessary harm.
“We acknowledge positive remarks made in the report about facilities and activities available within Derwentside IRC. However, we remain assertive that access to sports, a salon, and pool tables, does not take away from the complete brutality of detention where women are taken from their families and communities, detained under prison-like conditions, for indefinite time periods, for nothing other than administrative purposes.
“The report confirms the significant vulnerabilities of the women placed in Derwentside with survivors of torture being detained and self-harm taking place. The reports of women being transferred back and forth between detention centres and holding facilities are unthinkably cruel and equally shocking and unacceptable.
“As much as one third of the population in Derwentside IRC are recorded as Adults at Risk, and according to Home Office policy should therefore not be detained. Home Office policy is being breached, human rights are being attacked, and women are suffering unnecessarily. We are here today, as we have been monthly for over two years, to show solidarity with all the women who have been detained, and to demonstrate our outrage to the government.”
A spokesperson from Abolish Detention, said:
“Whilst members in the House of Lords try to get the government to make changes to another brutalising piece of immigration legislation – the Illegal Migration Bill – the IMB’s recent report on Derwentside highlights the continuing injustices and harms perpetrated by the existing immigration regime here in the North East. The IMB couldn’t be clearer in its conclusions that this is not a suitable place to detain migrant women. We would argue that there is no humane way to detain people for immigration purposes – the UK needs to put an end to immigration detention and close all centres like Derwentside.
“We were particularly distressed to read about the racist nature of interpersonal violence directed towards women by guards in the Centre. As amongst the IMB’s findings is the revelation that although ‘the incidence of use of force is low at Derwentside‘ figures from 2022 ‘suggest it is worth exploring whether it is being disproportionately used on women of black African origin‘. This, and all such force, is entirely unnecessary and can only be stopped by the closure of these institutions.
“We know that there are already preparations being made for the completion of the final fourth block that the IMB note in their report has deprived women of access to much-needed facilities. But this won’t resolve the fundamental issues caused by immigration detention and will simply allow the new contractor – Serco – to further profit from detaining more women at Derwentside when they take over from Mitie in September. We oppose public monies being used to line the pockets of these companies’ managers and shareholders for inflicting such harms on individuals in our communities.
“So, we call on everyone to join us in standing in solidarity with the women in the Centre and the protestors at the site today in saying ‘Shut it Down’. None of us are free until all of us are free.”