Durham council opposes Hassockfield Detention Centre

No to Hassockfield poster

Members of the No To Hassockfield campaign group say that Durham County Council’s agreement that the site at Hassockfield is not suitable to become an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) is a game changer in their fight to prevent the site of the notorious former Medomsley Detention Centre being used to detain women asylum seekers.  

Local residents and the campaign group have been concerned about government plans for the IRC for some time. The centre is reported to be preparing to take around 80 women.

The original Labour Party motion taken to full council on Wednesday 14 July was deliberately amended by the cross-party Joint Administration at County Hall. Their amendment included the words, “Durham County Council does not believe that the use of Hassockfield as an Immigration Removal Centre is an acceptable use of this site.”   

They are not criminals

The Council also made clear how few of the people who would be detained offer any threat to society, stating, “It is acknowledged that most detainees in this type of facility are not criminals and that 86% of women detained in 2018 secured their freedom and now contribute positively to our society.”  

A welcome decision to oppose Hassockfield Detention Centre

The chair of the No To Hassockfield campaign group, Owen Temple, welcomed the council’s decision and commented that this decision by the council changes the whole dynamic of the debate.  

“For too long the people of North West Durham have been fed the line that the centre will be filled with criminals who will be deported for the protection of society,” said Owen. “The County Council has now clearly challenged that view, and opponents of the scheme are eager to work with the Council in any way possible to prevent the site from being used as an immigration detention centre.”  

Julie Ward, former MEP and member of No To Hassockfield campaign group said:

“It is heartening to see Durham County Council stating the true facts about people seeking asylum and also acknowledging the role they play in making our country a better and richer place. This is in stark contrast to the Conservative MP for NW Durham, Richard Holden, who consistently describes detainees as criminals and illegals. We have seen recently what happens when people in public life use misleading language and fail to call out racism. We are better than that and Durham County Council’s resolution sets the authority apart from a government which has lost its moral compass.”

You can read more about the campaign in North East Bylines here.

The council debate can be seen here (starting at 1:44:08)

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