Today marks the two-year anniversary since a crime took place – the opening of Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre – a place synonymous with trauma, misery, and suffering. Derwentside continues to stand as an active crime scene, perpetuating injustice and heartbreak.
In the early hours of this morning, campaigners, advocating for the closure of Derwentside prison, shrouded the entrance in crime scene tape, a visual statement intended to draw attention to the crimes transpiring behind the gates – the unseen trauma, suffering, and misery experienced by the women within.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has unequivocally condemned the remote location of Derwentside, deeming it unsuitable and responsible for the unfair and, in some instances, inhumane treatment of the vulnerable women it detains, many of whom have experienced trafficking. Jane Leech MBE, Chair of the IMB at Derwentside, urges the Immigration Minister to reconsider the centre’s suitability as an immigration removal centre.
Unlike male immigration centres in England, Derwentside is strategically placed hundreds of miles from the UK’s principal airports and other detention centres, resulting in arduous transfers, often during the night and with disruptive overnight stays at other secure facilities. Family visits are infrequent, and the deficient communications infrastructure further isolates women from their support networks.
Disturbingly, vulnerable women have been detained for extended periods after their release was approved, due to delays in finding suitable accommodation. The IMB’s concerns extend beyond logistics, encompassing the inadequate care of those at risk of self-harm or suicide, unprofessional use of force, and a lack of oversight in detention decisions.In the six months prior to August 2022, 36 reports of torture survivors being imprisoned were made, as well as four instances of suicidal ideation.
A survey within a His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) report revealed that 16% of respondents at Derwentside admitted to feeling suicidal at some point, and a staggering 68% reported feeling depressed. The majority of women imprisoned in Derwentside are eventually released, prompting serious questions about the necessity of their initial detention.
Abolish Detention and No to Hassockfield
A spokesperson from Abolish Detention said;
“Today highlights that people refuse to accept the inhumane government policies that try to divide our communities. Detention is not a solution, people belong in communities not cages.”
Adding to this mounting evidence, the Home Office has announced plans to relocate women out of Derwentside IRC in January, acknowledging the centre’s failure. After two long years of imprisonment, traumatising countless women, we must ask: for what purpose? The government must heed the reports, listen to the stories of those traumatised within its walls, and take immediate action to close Derwentside IRC instead of transferring male detainees there in January.
Two years ago today, a crime occurred that has cast a dark shadow over the local region. It is time for the government to rectify this injustice, close Derwentside IRC, and transform the site into a beacon of hope and prosperity.
A spokesperson from No To Hassockfield said;
“As soon as plans for the site were released, we campaigned to prevent Derwentside opening. It is criminal that over the last 2 years hundreds of women have been deeply traumatised by being locked up inside without a time limit. In June this year the government’s own Independent Monitoring Board called on the Home Office to reconsider the suitability of the site. We feel that the millions of pounds given to MITIE and now SERCO shareholders to run the site could have been used in a much more positive way to benefit local people in the Consett area.”