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CAMPAIGNERS held a vigil outside the gates of a new women’s detention centre in County Durham yesterday.
Derwentside, located in Consett, was officially opened by the government on Tuesday and will replace Yarl’s Wood in Bedford as Britain’s only unit for holding female immigration detainees.
Run by private firm Mitie, the site will hold “foreign national offenders and immigration offenders” with a capacity of 84 people, the Home Office said.
Following the announcement, locals held a vigil outside the site to “remember the victims of the hostile environment” and protest against the “inhumane practice of detention.”
Campaigners said the action delayed works on the site for an hour.
Vigil organiser and Abolish Detention campaigner Amber said: “We need jobs and investments in the area, but not like these — not jobs that will keep causing trauma in our communities and will likely have poor working conditions.”
Locals have bitterly opposed the plans, partly due to the history of the site which previously served as the Medomsley youth jail where hundreds of young men and boys were abused for decades until it closed in 1988.
Women for Refugee Women detention campaign spokesperson Agnes Tanoh, who is also a former Yarl’s Wood detainee, vowed yesterday to continue campaigning against the site.
“Together with local people, other women who have been detained and charities, I will keep fighting to stop them from locking up women at Hassockfield and harming more people at this site of historical horror and trauma,” she said.
Julie Ward from the No to Hassockfield group, which has been campaigning to stop the opening of the centre, condemned Britain’s detention system as a “waste of public money as well as a cruel waste of lives.”
“We will continue with our efforts to find ways to seek a legal challenge and we will continue our monthly protests on the 3rd Saturday of every month until this abominable facility is closed,” she told the Morning Star.
Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted that “safeguarding and promoting the welfare of women was at the forefront of the new facility, and builds on the learning and experience of Yarl’s Wood.”
A national protest demanding the site’s closure will be held outside Derwentside on December 4.
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