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Consett rally will vow to see detention centre closed

Hundreds to protest against the Tories’ ‘dehumanising’ refugee detention regime

HUNDREDS of people are gearing up to resist the Tories’ “dehumanising” refugee detention regime with a national rally on Saturday to oppose a new women’s removal centre in County Durham. 

The national demo comes a week after Home Secretary Priti Patel officially announced the opening of Derwentside immigration removal centre in Consett, despite widespread opposition to the plans. 

The site will replace Yarl’s Wood in Bedford and hold up to 84 women facing removal from Britain, with the first detainees expected to be moved in before the end of the year. 

A coalition of concerned locals, refugee rights groups and campaigners have come together to oppose the centre, arguing detention is harmful to the wellbeing and mental health of detainees, especially women. 

Organisers of the protest on Saturday in Consett city centre, including Durham Peoples’ Assembly, Abolish Detention and Women for Refugee Women, said those seeking safety in Britain deserve “sanctuary not detention.” 

Speaking ahead of the protest, People’s Assembly national secretary Laura Pidcock told the Morning Star the demo was aimed at resisting the “dehumanisation” of people subjected to immigration detention. 

“What we are fighting against is the characterisation of these women, that they are somehow criminals, without a full frank discussion about how our immigration system criminalises [them],” she said. 

“This demonstration tomorrow is important to say; ‘Not in our name’ and that there’s people who disagree with the centre,” she said, adding: “It’s not something out of sight, out of mind.”

Ms Pidcock added that it was a “national scandal” that people are detained at huge cost to the taxpayer instead of being housed in the community, highlighting how private firms profit from running Britain’s detention estate. 

Security firm Mitie was awarded the £166 million two-year contract to run Derwentside IRC earlier this year. 

Former immigration detainee and Women for Refugee Women spokeswoman Agnes Tanoh is expected to tell the demo on Saturday that despite being released from Yarl’s Wood 10 years ago, she has not been able to “erase the bad experiences from my thoughts.” 

“Locking up vulnerable women has no sense,” she will say. “It is an evil act which traumatises, and even leads to suicide of distressed women. 

“No more detention for women seeking asylum. No more harm to women who fled persecution. No more making private companies rich by inflicting pain and misery on vulnerable women.”

Organisers said the protest will also pay respect to the 27 people who died attempting to cross the Channel last week, saying the tragedy is “exemplary of what the hostile environment is and what the effects of it are on people.”

The rally also comes a few days before the return of the Nationality and Borders Bill to the Commons for its second reading. 

The Bill proposes ramping up the use of detention and criminalising asylum seekers for arriving to Britain via irregular routes. 

“As a campaign we believe that people have the right to move and decide where they want to live, and not be criminalised on the way,” Rebecca from Abolish Detention told the Star. “Detention has no place in that either.”

The rally has received support from local MP Mary Foy and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

Ahead of visiting the centre last month, Immigration Minister Tom Pursglove MP 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.”

The Home Office claims the site will “provide safe, secure and fit for purpose accommodation for women.”

The demo will take place on Middle Street in Consett from 11.30am.

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