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Campaigners hit out at Home Office's ‘cruel and unnecessary’ decision to send female asylum-seekers to a remote detention centre

CAMPAIGNERS have raised concerns about a Home Office decision to send female asylum-seekers to a remote detention centre in Co Durham. 

The government will start moving women to the new Derwentside immigration detention centre near Consett this week, despite previous promises to reduce the number of vulnerable individuals being held. 

Research shows that the majority of women in immigration detention are survivors of serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape and trafficking. 

Activists have reported that women held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire will be transferred to the new site.

Derwentside is in a remote location, in a region that lacks immigration and asylum legal aid providers, and the women held there will be isolated from their support networks and face significant barriers to accessing good-quality legal advice.

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 centre, describing it as “cruel and unnecessary.”

Agnes Tanoh, a former Yarl’s Wood detainee and detention campaign spokeswoman at Women for Refugee Women, said that those being moved to Co Durham would be terrified. 

Ms Tanoh has started a petition against the new centre and gathered over 16,000 signatures. 

She said: “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 faraway place.”

Addressing the Home Secretary, Ms Tanoh asked: “Priti Patel, why are you locking up other women this Christmas?”

Locals in the area around Derwentside, formerly known as Hassockfield, said that they were appalled to have this happening in their county.

Dr Helen Groom of the No To Hassockfield Campaign said: “The women arriving at Hassockfield/Derwentside are all somebody’s mother, wife, daughter, sister; many of them will have fled their homes after suffering sexual violence, persecution and abuse. 

“To lock them up is cruel, inhumane, expensive and unnecessary. We call on Priti Patel to release all women in detention and to close Hassockfield now.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Derwentside … has vital services such as a bespoke health suite and mental health in-reach. Individuals in removal centres can easily contact their legal representatives by telephone, email and video call and also receive 30 minutes’ free advice through the legal aid scheme.“

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