Injustice on Our Doorstep: Protesting Hassockfield-Derwentside on International Women’s Day ’22

Posted on Monday, April 4th, 2022

To round off our week of programming for International Women’s Day in March, we visited Durham Jewish Society in collaboration with Women for Refugee Women, Union of Jewish Students and Student Action for Refugees.

The Home Office began detaining women at Derwentside in County Durham in December 2021. On land previously earmarked for social housing, the detention centre has capacity for 84 women to be locked up at any one time and replaces Yarl’s Wood as the main site of women’s detention. To round off our week of programming for International Women’s Day 2022, we travelled to Durham to host a Friday Night Dinner with Jewish students on campus. Together, we discussed and learnt about the risks faced by women in detention. For Jewish students at Durham, Hassockfield-Derwentside sits right on the doorstep of their university campus. We will be supporting Jewish students local to the site to raise their concerns about the continuation of this detention centre.

René Cassin’s work on indefinite detention forms part of our campaign for a Jewish challenge to the “hostile environment”. This refers to policies developed by the Government that make it difficult for migrants, refugees, and others with non-British heritage-particularly people of colour- make a life for themselves in the United Kingdom as equal members of society. These policies, including indefinite and offshore detention and criminalising people forced to take irregular journeys to the UK, are being expanded by the Nationality and Borders Bill being debated in Parliament currently. The Bill is unlawful, ineffective, and immoral, and represents the biggest attack on the refugee protection system the UK has ever seen. Learn more about the Bill and write to your MP to challenge it here.

Our partners had this to say about Hassockfield-Derwentside:

From Durham STAR:

Durham STAR is part of STAR, a national charity supporting asylum seekers and refugees. We are a group of students working towards campaigning to improve the lives of refugees and educate people about refugees and asylum. 

We are currently working with other organisations to close down Hassockfield female detention centre in county Durham (now called Derwentside), through raising funds for the legal challenge. We have also published an open letter calling for Durham to end its contract with Mitie, which runs the detention centre and provides cleaning, landscaping, and total security management for the university (you can find a link to this on our Instagram).  

We hold monthly meetings, attend the protest at Hassockfield once a month and offer volunteering opportunities. Everyone is welcome to join, and we love meeting new members! To find out more stay up to date please check out our Instagram and Facebook and feel free to message with any questions. We look forward to meeting you! 

For more info: 

[email protected]

www.instagram.com/durham.uni.star/

www.facebook.com/durhamunistar

From Women for Refugee Women:

Women for Refugee Women have launched a legal challenge to take the government to court!

The government are detaining women at Derwentside without access to face-to-face legal advice. Many women in detention are survivors of rape and other forms of gender-based violence and disclosing such experiences can be particularly difficult for them. This is made even more difficult as women are expected to disclose their experiences over the phone, to someone they have never met before.

As Agnes, our Detention Campaign Spokesperson, who was herself detained before being granted her refugee status, said: “Imagine having to tell a stranger about the most horrific intimate violence you have suffered.” 

Not being able to fully disclose their experiences can have significant negative consequences for women, including possible removal from the UK back to an unsafe and dangerous situation.

No woman should be held in detention. We hope our legal challenge will shut down Derwentside for good!

We are fundraising to cover our legal costs. Any support to help us reach our target would be very much appreciated! Please share with your friends and family too!

I

If you’d like to be involved in our work campaigning to close Hassockfield-Derwentside then please be in touch with Rachel at [email protected]