Updated 23 November 2021: Re: Hassockfield/Consett/Derwentside immigration detention centre to house women will open by the end of 2021!
For 20 years, Yarl’s Wood has been holding asylum seekers without time limits. Now a controversial new centre is replacing it to hold women. Is it time to call an end to detention?
Agnes Tanoh still remembers the fear of being taken into Yarl’s Wood, nearly a decade on. “You walk through the gates,” says the 65-year-old Ivorian refugee, “and the tunnel you take to reach the first office destroys your mind. I thought, ‘I am going somewhere I may never leave.’”
It was March 2012 when Tanoh was arrested and taken to the notorious immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire. After the disturbing ordeal of fleeing her home country the previous year, with her life at risk, she was incarcerated indefinitely as she awaited news of her fate.
“You haven’t defended yourself at trial,” she explains. “Being taken to a detention centre is being given a sentence without a time limit. It can be one week, three months, one year – you don’t know. Detention breaks families and causes distress and trauma.”
A new immigration detention centre for women will open in County Durham, the government has announced. Derwentside removal centre will replace Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire as the UK’s only unit dedicated for women. It will house foreign national prison inmates due for release and immigration offenders awaiting deportation, with capacity for 84 people.
Read more from BBC here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-59393904
Statement in Parliament: Immigration provisions – Written Statement https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2021-11-23/hcws411
Updated 24 August 2021: The Northern Echo – Consett is site of proposed immigration detention centre
A coalition of local people and campaign groups from across the country took part in Saturday’s protest in the rain outside the proposed location for the centre, the former Hassockfield Detention Centre site, at Medomsley, near Consett, County Durham.
It was the third demonstration organised at the site and the first protest planned to take place on the third Saturday each month.
Should it be developed, the centre will detain women with insecure immigration status who are at risk of deportation by the Home Office.
Protestors claim detention is an inhumane practice, responsible for the harm and traumatisation of migrant communities.
26 April 2021: Agnes’ petition: Stop the new detention centre for women
My name is Agnes. I am a refugee, I am a woman, I am a human being. The Home Office has started building a new immigration detention centre at Hassockfield in County Durham to lock up women like me. Please join me in taking action to stop them.
27 February 2021 Guardian: Revealed: Priti Patel U-turn on end to detention for refugee women
Home Office accused of betrayal over network of new asylum-seeker centres
A new network of immigration detention units for women is being quietly planned by the Home Office, contrary to previous pledges to reform the system and reduce the number of vulnerable people held.
An initial detention centre, based in County Durham on the site of a former youth prison, will open for female asylum seekers this autumn.
In addition to the facility near Consett, Home Office officials told asylum groups last week they were considering a number of “smaller capacity detention units” for women around the UK, though it is unclear if the notorious Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire would be among them.
Alphonsine Kabagabo, director of the charity Women for Refugee Women, called the creation of a detention centre in the north-east a “betrayal of previous commitments made by ministers”.
23 January 2021: This is disgraceful and it is very troubling that consideration is being given to increasing the ‘detention estate’, especially at this time of Covid-19:
Anger over government proposal to house up to 500 people in cabins on MoD land beside Barton Stacey. Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/09/planned-asylum-seeker-site-hampshire-village-open-prison-barton-stacey
Plans for a multi-million pound housing scheme in County Durham are expected to be scrapped to be replaced by an immigration detention centre.
The Home Office is proposing to turn the former Hassockfield Detention Centre, in Consett, into a Category 3-style prison to detain around 80 people who have had applications for UK residency denied.
Durham County Council had approved the planning application from Homes England for 127 homes on the site last summer.