We understand that the Home Office is transferring women from Yarl’s Wood to the newly opened Derwentside immigration detention centre (formerly known as Hassockfield) near Consett in County Durham, despite previous pledges to reduce the number of vulnerable people detained. The detention centre has capacity for 84 women to be locked up at any one time.

Since this plan was announced a year ago, local residents, women who were formerly detained, and campaigners have united to resist the opening of the new centre, describing it as “cruel and unnecessary”. We will continue to stand together to call for its closure.

The opening of Derwentside marks a concerning reversal in Home Office policy that will harm vulnerable women:

  • Research has shown that the majority of women who are locked up in immigration detention are survivors of serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape and trafficking. Detention is retraumatising and harmful, and women’s immigration cases can be far more effectively and humanely resolved within the community.
  • In 2016, following Prison Ombudsperson Stephen Shaw’s damning review into the welfare of vulnerable people in detention, the Home Office committed to reducing the detention of vulnerable people, including women who are survivors of sexual and gender-based abuse.
    • By December 2019 the number of women detained had fallen by around two-thirds to 121 women, and during the pandemic these numbers reduced still further, with the most recent figures showing there are 30 women in detention. These historically low numbers mean it is illogical for the Home Office to open a new detention centre for women. Derwentside will be the first new detention centre to open for almost 8 years, and marks a reversal in Home Office policy regarding the use of detention.
  • Derwentside is in a remote location, in a region that lacks immigration and asylum legal aid providers, and so women detained there will be isolated from their support networks and will face significant barriers to accessing good quality legal advice.

Our Detention Campaign Spokesperson, Agnes Tanoh, was detained at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire for 3 months before she was granted refugee status. Today she says:

“We hoped this day would never come. It takes me back to the day I was taken to Yarl’s Wood. Everything was taken from me, including my phone, so I could not get in touch with my family to let them know. The journey to Yarl’s Wood was long and I didn’t know what was happening. Fear. Fear. Fear. That is what I felt.

Fear is what my sisters who were taken to Hassockfield today will be feeling. The journey from Yarl’s Wood is 5 hours. Imagine their terror on that journey.

I don’t want the Derwentside detention centre at Hassockfield to be open. People coming here to seek asylum are hoping for security and freedom. They want to rebuild their lives after what they went through. They believe that they are coming to a country of human rights but they find themselves in a prison. I don’t want that. I want the women at Yarl’s Wood to be released, not locked up in another far away place.

Right now, other families are writing cards, doing their Christmas shopping, having a joyful time and sharing love. Thinking about these women who will be locked up alone and afraid, not knowing what to do, makes me cry. This should be a time of smiling, loving, sharing and being together. It is not a time to be locked up.

Priti Patel, why are you locking up other women this Christmas?”

TAKE ACTION: Please sign Agnes’s petition to stop the Home Office from using Hassockfield as a detention centre for women: www.change.org/stop-detaining-women