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Government set to open new immigration detention centre for women

The government has announced that they will be opening a new women’s immigration detention centre in County Durham.

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New detention centre to open 

The government has announced that they will be opening a new immigration detention centre for women in County Durham.

The Derwentside immigration removal centre for women will have a capacity for 84 women and will house foreign national prison inmates and immigration offenders awaiting deportation from the UK.

The centre is set to open at the end of the year. 

Tom Pursglove MP, the Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, said:

“Those with no right to remain in the UK should be in no doubt of our determination to remove them. Immigration detention plays a vital role in tackling illegal migration and protecting the public from harm…This is a fundamental part of our Nationality and Borders Bill and the New Plan for Immigration which will make it easier to remove people who have no right to be in the UK.”

Derwentside will replace Yarl’s Wood

Derwentside will replace Yarl’s Wood as the only immigration detention centre designated for women in the UK. 

Yarl’s Wood stopped being used as a removal centre last year after concerns were raised about the way women had been treated and how this has been detrimental to their physical and mental health.

Yarl’s Wood has been open for 20 years and has faced heavy criticism throughout this time from inmates and charities as well as through court rulings and official inspections. 

Emma Ginn, director at Medical Justice, said:

 “A number of our clients have deteriorated in Yarl’s Wood IRC, requiring transfer to secure psychiatric units. It has been particularly distressing that some were later taken back to Yarl’s Wood IRC…There has been no shortage of credible criticism over the last 20 years of Yarl’s Wood IRC, including the HM Inspector of Prisons dubbing it “a place of national concern”, a High Court judgement finding “inhuman and degrading treatment”, and Channel 4 undercover video footage of guards boasting about their use of force and racist abuse of vulnerable women.”

Despite the many calls for permanent closure, Yarl’s Wood is still being used to house asylum seekers arriving in the UK visa small boat crossings. 

Detention centre opposed by local council and charities

The charity Women for Refugee Women has started legal action against the Home Office in opposition to the new detention centre. They are challenging whether the Home Office is complying with equality rules.

Alphonsine Kabagabo, director of Women for Refugee Women, said: “The majority of women seeking asylum who are locked up in immigration detention are survivors of rape, trafficking, torture and other horrific violence. Detention re-traumatises them and makes it even more difficult for them to resolve their immigration cases.”

Durham County Council also said that they have opposed repurposing Hassockfield Secure Training Centre into the new detention centre.

Council leader Amanda Hopgood said: 

 “To reuse it as a detention centre for whatever purpose will bring back an awful lot of memories for people and not good ones…I’m not sure how reasonable a site in the location in the County Durham countryside near Consett is, given most of these people will be transferred hundreds of miles to get here away from people they know.”

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