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Locals launch protest against plans for new women’s detention centre in County Durham

LOCALS stepped up their campaign against government plans for a new women’s detention centre in County Durham by launching a protest outside the site today. 

Crowds gathered outside the former Hassockfield youth jail and notorious Medomsley detention centre in Consett, where the Home Office wants to create a new immigration removal centre. 

The new facility is expected to hold about 80 women when it opens this autumn. 

But the plans have faced fierce local opposition with trade unionists, asylum-seekers and families mobilising to thwart the creation of a new detention centre on their doorstep.

Protesters held signs reading: “No to Hassockfield,” “Seeking sanctuary is not a crime” and “Homes not prisons.” 

A spokesperson from Abolish Detention, which organised today’s protest with Durham People’s Assembly, said: “Despite all the years of institutional injustice and violence that have been enacted at the Hassockfield/ Medomsley site, this March … the Home Office and the Tory MP Richard Holden announced their plans to reopen it as a women’s immigration detention centre. Another place of state-sanctioned abuse and trauma. 

“Changing its target from young British lads to migrant women, the Hassockfield detention centre will continue the inhumane cycle of classist, racist and sexist profit-driven incarceration.

“But we say no, no more abuse, no more making profit out of human misery, no more detention.”

The site of the planned centre was once home to Medomsley Detention centre — where hundreds of  boys and young men were physically and sexually abused during the 1970s and ’80s. 

It later became Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, where 14-year-old Adam Rickwood became the youngest child to die in custody in more than a century when he hanged himself in 2004. 

Durham People’s Assembly said it is opposing the plans because of the “immorality of incarcerating people who are looking for safety” as well as the “horrendous history associated with the site and the impact this still has on the community.”

It comes after more than 70 MPs wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel last month urging her to “cancel all plans” for the site. 

The group of cross-party politicians raised concerns that the Home Office is pushing ahead with the plans before completing an equality impact assessment, risking “exposing already vulnerable women to yet more discrimination and harm.”

Speaking from the demo, Durham People’s Assembly member Laura Nicol vowed to keep protesting “until we are heard.” 

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