Detention Centres — IRCs

See also updates about the tireless campaigning of Daisy and family here:

See posts regarding contingency accommodation which is sometimes quasi-detention

19 September 2023: Guardian: I warned ministers about our disgraceful UK detention centres. Their solution? Stop the inspections….

David Neal

The report on Brook House mirrors concerns I raised as chief inspector, but Suella Braverman’s Home Office lacks the will to address them

  • David Neal is the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration

Read More:

The Home Office and Government must be held accountable for this, and for all the work that is carried out in its name:

Brook House Inquiry: The Brook House Inquiry Report

On 19 September 2023, Kate Eves, the Chair of The Brook House Inquiry, published her report into the mistreatment of individuals who were detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre. You can download the Report or view it online on the website.

Inquiry’s report reveals “toxic” culture at Brook House IRC
The Brook House Inquiry, established to investigate the mistreatment of individuals detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), published its report on the 19 September 2023. The Chair, Kate Eves, makes 33 important recommendations which she said, “need to be implemented to ensure that other detained people do not suffer in the same way as those at Brook House did.”

The Inquiry, which was established following the broadcast of the BBC Panorama programme “Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets”, identified 19 instances over a five-month period, in which there was credible evidence of acts or omissions that were capable of amounting to mistreatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The most serious of these incidents involved the application of pressure to a detained man’s neck while he was in extreme distress.

The Chair, Kate Eves, said “That I found this number of incidents took place within such a limited timeframe of five months is of significant concern. In my view, these incidents were able to happen because of a combination of factors. Under the Home Office and its contractor, G4S, Brook House was not sufficiently decent, secure or caring for detained people or its staff at the time these events took place. An environment flourished in which unacceptable treatment became more likely.”

The Report also examines ten of the most significant issues affecting Brook House, which led to a negative experience for many detained people and contributed to conditions where mistreatment was more likely to occur. For example, the physical environment of Brook House was entirely unsuitable for detaining people for anything other than a short period of time. The Chair also heard evidence that the indefinite nature of immigration detention caused uncertainty and anxiety for detained people and had a detrimental effect on their wellbeing. The Chair has recommended that the government introduce a time limit, whereby those detained at Immigration Removal Centres, including Brook House, should be kept there for a maximum of 28 days. Other issues included the failure to follow safeguarding rules and procedures, excessive use of force and a “toxic” culture amongst G4S staff at Brook House.

The Chair has made 33 recommendations which, when implemented, will not only ensure that what happened at Brook House does not happen in the future but will also provide a more humane, compassionate and professional environment for immigration detention. The failure to act on previous recommendations is a dark thread that runs throughout this report and the Chair has urged the Home Office and other recipients of her recommendations to publish their responses within six months: “It is my sincere hope that more than mere lip service will be paid to this report. The events that occurred at Brook House cannot be repeated.”

Read more:

27 August 2023: Thanks to Maddie Harris and Humans for Rights Network – StatusNow signatories – for exposing this terrible situation:

Guardian: Children reaching UK in small boats sent to jail for adult sex offenders

Human rights group finds growing number of cases of minors held among prisoners

Vulnerable children who arrive in Britain by small boat are being placed in an adult prison that holds significant numbers of sex offenders.

A growing number of cases have been identified where unaccompanied children, many of whom appear to be trafficked, have been sent to HMP Elmley, Kent, and placed among foreign adult prisoners.

Read more:

26 June 2023: Guardian: Guards at Heathrow Immigration Detention Centre Try to Quell Protest

Detainees claim that Home Office contractors have lost control of the centre at a time when the Home Office is planning to detain and deport 3,000 people a month – a tenfold increase on current numbers. Those held at Harmondsworth say they are protesting about conditions including poor access to healthcare services and soaring temperatures in cells.

Detainees claim that Home Office contractors have lost control of the centre at a time when the Home Office is planning to detain and deport 3,000 people a month – a tenfold increase on current numbers. “There are no windows – we can’t breathe here. It’s the same as a prison, with two people in a [2m x 2m] cell. It is unbearable,” a detainee from Iraq said.

Read more: Nicola Kelly and Diane Taylor, Guardian,

Freemovement: Scottish Inquiry Finds Immigration Detention Centre Death Was Avoidable

A number of defects in the system of working in Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre led to the death of a 54-year-old Chinese man which could have reasonably been avoided. 

Mr Xi Biao Huang had relocated from China and resided in the UK until his detention by immigration officers in August 2017 initially in an English immigration removal centre. When Mr Huang was brought to Dungavel in Scotland, he was incorrectly noted as speaking Mandarin (a language of which he had no knowledge). He was in fact a Taishanese speaker. His English was extremely limited. His name and his date of birth were also incorrectly recorded. 

A few days after arriving, Mr Huang, with the aid of his roommate, tried to explain he was suffering from chest pain. His complaint was noted as “gastric” and he was given indigestion medication without any record of his vital signs being taken. The following day, Mr Huang was found dead in his cell. The cause of death was noted as Ischaemic Heart Disease. The post-mortem indicated he had suffered a heart attack approximately two weeks earlier and again a day or two before his death.

Read more: Freemovement,

1 April 2023: Guardian: Death of detainee near Heathrow prompts immigration detention crisis fears

Frank Ospina’s death followed by reports of suicide attempts by other detainees at immigration centre

Lawyers and charities have predicted an unfolding crisis in immigration detention after the death of a detainee and reports of subsequent suicide attempts by others.

The Home Office confirmed that investigations had been launched by police and the prisons and probation ombudsman into the death of Frank Ospina on 26 March. He was being held at Colnbrook immigration removal centre near Heathrow next to the adjoining Harmondsworth immigration detention centre. He is believed to have been 39 and from Colombia. Detainees said he took his own life, although this has not been confirmed.

A notice to detainees from the centre manager Paul Rennie dated the day the man died states: “It is with respect that I have to announce that resident Mr Frank Ospina sadly passed away today.”

It adds: “Please be assured we are doing all we can to reduce the risks of such incidents happening again in the future.”

The Guardian received reports from several detainees that shortly after reports of Ospina’s death circulated, a number of detainees attempted suicide, and that some detainees staged a protest at the centre earlier this week.

Charities have also highlighted delays in carrying out what are known as rule 35 reports, which assess vulnerabilities of people in detention such as whether they are a suicide risk. The Home Office did not comment on these reports.

The detention problems come at a time when the Home Office has announced it will be expanding the use of immigration detention. In a fact sheet published on 31 March officials said that under the new rules “it is for the home secretary rather than the courts to determine what is a reasonable time period to detain an individual”

Read more:

27 February 2023: Guardian: Maintenance failures sparked Heathrow detention centre disturbances, FoI reveals

Freedom of information responses reveal damning findings of internal investigations into power cuts at Harmondsworth in 2022

A catalogue of maintenance failures over more than a decade caused power cuts that triggered disturbances at Europe’s largest immigration detention centre last year, the Guardian has learned.

The disturbances at Harmondsworth, the 676-bed centre near Heathrow, led to elite prison squads and the Metropolitan police being called to the scene to quell the protest. As a result of the power failure the centre had to be closed for several weeks and detainees relocated to other detention centres and prisons around the UK.

Freedom of information responses obtained by the charity Medical Justice and passed to the Guardian reveal the damning findings of internal investigations into what went wrong and found that “a lack of preventative routine maintenance” caused “multiple power failures”.

Read more:

Updated 13 February 2023: Women for Refugee Women: STOP PROFITING FROM OUR HEARTBREAK: VALENTINE’S DAY ACTION

Women for Refugee Women and the End Detention group, our lived experience group of women with experience of immigration detention, are taking action this Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is a day of love, compassion and care.

Yet for women in detention, it’s another painful reminder that they are ripped apart from their loved ones. Detention is retraumatising and causes lasting damage to women’s mental health.

But huge profits are being made from women’s pain. Mitie and Serco are both involved in running detention centres in the UK and make ENORMOUS profits from doing so.

That’s why, this Valentine’s Day, we’re sending anti-Valentine’s Day cards to Mitie and Serco urging them to end their involvement in detention and to #StopProfitingFromOurHeartbreak.

BID: Join us for ‘No More Detention Centres‘ on 24th January at 7pm
Join us to learn about the proposed expansion of immigration detention in the UK and how we can resist it.

The Home Office has recently announced plans to reopen Campsfield House and Haslar as Immigration Removal Centres, increasing the number of people that can be detained at any given time by 33%, at a cost of £399 million to the taxpayer.

These plans are part of an alarming trend of regressive and inhumane legislation which criminalises asylum seekers and migrants and substantially increases the numbers of detainable and deportable people. Increasing detention capacity is part of the infrastructure required to enact the Government’s inhumane plans to remove people seeking asylum to Rwanda, which must be stopped.

This event will bring together several speakers to discuss how we can come together to resist the expansion of immigration detention and move towards a world in which no one is deprived of their liberty for immigration purposes or deported from their home.

Panel Chair:
Writer and campaigner Gracie Mae Bradley will chair the panel. She has a decade’s experience working in NGOs in England, including as Director of the civil liberties group Liberty, as well as being part of many grassroots campaigns. She is co-author of Against Borders (Verso, 2022).

Kolbassia Haoussou MBE, Director of Survivor Empowerment at Freedom from Torture who will be speaking about their successful campaigning work targeting airlines removing asylum seekers to Rwanda as well as broader campaigning against Hostile Environment Policies.
Jacqueline McKenzie, partner and head of immigration and asylum law at Leigh Day Solicitors with whom BID is working on a legal challenge against Manston. Drawing on her vast experience, including representing hundreds of people affected by the Windrush Scandal, she will be discussing how we can hold the government to account in court.
Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West who joined local campaigners in successfully closing an Immigration Removal Centre in Oxford in 2018, and is currently fighting government proposals to re-open it.
Bill MacKeith, from the Keep Campsfield Closed Coalition, will be sharing insight gleaned from over 30 years of campaigning to close Campsfield down and keep it closed. 
Pierre Makhlouf, Legal Director at Bail for Immigration Detainees, will be discussing trends in Immigration Detention Policy, the case against immigration detention and BID’s work to end it.

Book your free place now

Updated 8 December 2022: Chronicle Live: Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre requires ‘urgent improvement’ in safety procedures

Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) holds a number of extremely vulnerable women but inspection of the centre found the need for ‘urgent improvement’ in areas of safety

Urgent improvements must be made to areas of safety at Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), an inspection has found.

Inspectors visiting the County Durham immigration centre, which holds a number of extremely vulnerable women, found shortfalls in areas including the safeguarding policy which did not focus on the particular needs of women. There were also flaws in the process for monitoring those at risk of self-harm or suicide, and documentation was inadequate

Read more:

25 November 2022: Detention Action: Manston Detention Facility Emptied After Legal Action Against Home Secretary 

Detention Action has welcomed reports that all people held at the Manston Short-Term Holding Facility have now been moved into alternative accommodation elsewhere. The rapid emptying of the facility took place after Detention Action, PCS Union and a woman held at the facility issued the first legal action against the Home Secretary for her mistreatment of people held at the site.
On Monday 1st November, an urgent, pre-action letter was sent to the office of the Home Secretary on behalf of Detention Action and a woman held at the Manston facility. PCS Union, which represents Border Force and Home Office staff working at the facility, later joined the legal challenge.
The Home Secretary was offered a week to respond to the pre-action letter. After a week, the Home Secretary’s lawyers requested an extension of the deadline for response, which was granted by the claimants. However, no substantive response was received by the extended deadline. A written response from the Home Secretary’s lawyers was received five days after the extended deadline, only once the Manston site had been emptied. Although the site has been emptied, the Home Secretary has made no announcement to close the site.

Read more: Detention Action, [thanks to John O/No Deportations]

Updated 21 November 2022: Action Against Detention and Deportations (AADD)’s response to news that a man died after his health deteriorated in Manston:

We are saddened and enraged that a man has died after being held in the squalid Manston detention camp. Reports suggest that after an initial stay in hospital he was discharged to Manston where his health significantly deteriorated. Despite this, it seems that he was kept for several days – far longer than the legal limit of 24 hours – in a ‘medical bay’ at Manston before being returned to a hospital the day before he died. By then it was perhaps too late. 

A mother has lost a precious son. Family and friends still don’t know that he died in the so-called “care” of a racist, brutal and hostile immigration regime. The government intends poor living conditions to act as a deterrent to people crossing the Channel. This was therefore not an accident – and many more vulnerable people seeking safety are at risk.

This first death was entirely foreseeable. There is copious evidence that Manston is not fit for human habitation and falls far below even minimum standards for accommodation, healthcare and the safeguarding. The camp should have closed a long time ago – in fact it should never have been opened. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that Suella Braverman and the Home Office have blood on their hands. 

The state routinely lies and spreads misinformation after deaths in custody. We need to know the truth about who this man was and how he came to die. We need the IOPC and other investigating authorities to immediately release all the information they currently have. His family needs compensation. Justice cannot be left to the state or to organisations like the IOPC which are notorious for withholding information and delaying and obstructing accountability processes.

After our visit to Manston earlier this month, media attention and public outrage peaked.  Large numbers of detainees were then released to detention centres, hotels, and other undisclosed locations, or to street homelessness. Despite this reduction in numbers, clearly nothing changed in the policy and practice of care for those at Manston. Whether it’s 1,600 or 4,000 people inside, Manston is neither safe nor humane for people who have crossed the Channel. One death is a death too many. We’ve said from the beginning: this camp needs to be shut down, those crossing the Channel need to be welcomed properly, housed in the community and given the resources they need to build a new life.

Action Against Detention and Deportations is a coalition of anti-border groups, including SOAS Detainee Support, Global Women Against Deportations, Migrants Organise, Global Justice Now and others. We stand against deportations and detention as tools of hate, division, and a racist state.

Updated 17 November 2022: Demonstrate with us this coming Saturday

Our regular joint demonstration will be held at the gates of Hassockfield/Derwentside* on Saturday, 19th November, 12.00-2.00.

As ever, please come along to add your voice and instruments – and solidarity – to the proceedings so that the women held inside the IRC hear us. And wear orange if you can!

Many thanks to those of you who turned out for our national demonstration in October, which was a great success – see our website ( ) for pictures of the day. 

*Corbridge Road, Consett, DH8 6QY (wheelchair accessible)      What3words app gives exact location   ///branded.speaks.sleepless

Updated 9 November: Guardian: Charities demand inquiry into Heathrow immigration centre conditions

Home secretary urged to investigate after detainees’ protests over their treatment during power outage

Detention charities have called on Suella Braverman to launch an urgent independent investigation into the disturbances at a Heathrow immigration removal centre over the weekend after a power cut.

In a letter sent to the home secretary and senior Home Office officials on Tuesday the charities Bail For Immigration Detainees and Medical Justice said the investigation should be launched without delay to find out exactly what had happened at Harmondsworth detention centre and to ascertain the conditions the detainees encountered when deprived of electricity, heating, running water and toilet facilities during the power cut.

The disturbance began after people on one wing refused to return to their cells on Friday evening in protest over the living conditions they were being subjected to during the outage.

Some said they stopped eating and drinking so they could avoid having to use the toilet. A second group of people said they went out into the exercise yard to get some fresh air and then were locked out there for several hours. Home Office sources deny that the gates were locked.

Read more:

13 October 2022: HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Short thematic review: The experience of immigration detainees in prisons, September 2022

Key concerns (these are just bare highlights, read the full report for more detail)

  1. Many immigration detainees were held in prisons for long periods despite minimal progress in their cases.
  2. Detainees routinely encountered difficulties in obtaining legal representation for their immigration cases.
  3. Serving prisoners were usually given very little notice that they would be subject to indefinite immigration detention, causing significant distress among many.
  4. Neither Home Office nor prison staff understood or applied the Adults at Risk in Detention policy that was intended to protect the most vulnerable detainees.
  5. The lack of an equivalent to Detention Centre Rule 35 meant that vulnerable detainees, including victims of torture, were not routinely being identified and the Home Office was not considering their release in the same way as they were obliged to for those held
    in IRCs.
  6. Detainees found it difficult to contact Home Office staff based in prisons.
  7. Professional interpretation was often not used when prison and Home Office staff communicated with immigration detainees.
  8. There was a poor understanding of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) among prison and Home Office staff.
  9. The support available to immigration detainees in prison from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and outside organisations was variable at best.

Read more:

This is the press release: Delays and confusion keeping immigration detainees behind bars unnecessarily

Read the report: The experience of immigration detainees in prisons

A review of the experience of immigration detainees held in prisons has found that they were markedly disadvantaged compared with those held in immigration removal centres (IRCs), with many in custody for long periods with little or no progress in their cases being made by the Home Office.

One detainee told us that she had agreed to return home and had offered to fund her own flight costs, but over six weeks later she had not received any clear updates about when it would be possible for her to travel. In other cases, the Home Office’s own independent case progression panel had recommended detainees be released. Yet they remained behind bars in prisons already under enormous strain.

Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said:

“Aside from the pressure this adds to an already stretched prison service, the pressure it puts on often vulnerable detainees themselves is enormous.”

Our inspectors found that detainees struggled to access legal advice. Very few had been told that they were entitled to half an hour of free legal advice, and many of the prison and Home Office staff that inspectors spoke to were not themselves aware of this entitlement. IRCs, by contrast, generally facilitate much better access to legal advice for detainees held there, putting them at a notable advantage over those held in prison.

Adding to this confusion, immigration papers were usually served in English with no formal interpretation services used when updating prisoners on their cases. Detainees therefore resorted to asking other prisoners to translate for them, leading to confusion and distress. Many described a feeling of hopelessness and despair at their situation.

Perhaps most worryingly, vulnerable detainees, including victims of torture, were not routinely identified, nor their release considered in the same way it would be in IRCs.

Mr Taylor said:

“Some of these people are extremely vulnerable. If these vulnerabilities are not monitored and addressed effectively, there is an increased risk that they will come to harm while in custody and that the integrity of the decision-making in their immigration cases will be undermined.

“Furthermore, the prolonged detention of people under immigration powers, especially when it is because of inefficiencies in Home Office case-working procedures, is inexcusable given that so many prisons are already overcrowded.”

Updated 14 May 2022: No to Hassockfield campaign demonstration today #Hassockfield #Detention Centres – IRC

Thanks to Magy from These Walls Must Fall for the photos

See also

BBC: Derwentside immigration detention centre ‘resurfaces trauma’

Protestors against a female immigration detention centre say it “retraumatises” already vulnerable women.

Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre in County Durham houses women waiting to be deported from the UK.

At a demonstration against the centre on Durham’s Palace Green campaigners called for the government to show “compassion”.

The Home Office said “the public expects” the UK to remove “those with no right to be in the UK”.

Agnes Tanoh, who fled violence on the Ivory Coast, said detention “destroys” women.

“It’s not a place to put people who are already distressed and depressed,” she said.

Ms Tanoh said earlier that the government had broken its promise “to reduce its use of detention because of the harm it causes” by opening Derwentside last year.

The centre at Hassockfield, Consett, which has capacity for 84 people, replaced Yarl’s Wood as the UK’s only women’s-only centre.

The site previously served as the Medomsley detention centre for young offenders and was the scene of widespread abuse for decades before it shut in 1988.

Read more:

Chronicle Live: Hundreds gather in Durham in protest against immigration centre #Detention – IRCS #Hassockfield/Derwent IRC

Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) began detaining women at the end of 2021 and is one of seven IRCs operated by The Home Office in the UK

Hundreds of people from across the UK gathered in Durham city centre today to oppose an immigration removal centre (IRC) in the county.

Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre began detaining women at the end of 2021 and is one of seven IRCs operated by The Home Office in the UK. Derwentside, which was previously known as Hassockfield, will replace Yarl’s Wood as the main IRC for detained women and will hold around 80 women at the site.

Read more:

Don’t forget: EVENT: No to Hassockfield Campaign – national demonstration 14 May 2022 in Durham – see below #Detention – IRCs #Hassockfield/Derwent IRC

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Update 29 April 2022: EVENT: No to Hassockfield Campaign – demonstration 14 May 2022: #Detention – IRC #Hassockfield/Derwent IRC

At the start of 2021, news emerged that a new Immigration Removal Centre was to be opened in County Durham. It soon came to light that this was to be a site for women, and was to replace Yarl’s Wood as the main IRC for women in the UK. In March 2021, groups of cross-party, human rights campaigners came together to set up The No To Hassockfield Campaign, which would stand against this site and battle for its closure and the release of all those to be imprisoned.  The site was officially opened at the end of last year, with the first women transferred on the 28th of Decemeber… an incredibly cruel period between Christmas and New Year. 

Along with Abolish-Detention – Hassockfield, and Durham People’s Assembly, we host monthly demonstrations at the site itself on the third Saturday of Every Month. Prayer vigils, organised by multiple faith groups, also take place monthly.  In early December, 2021, we hosted our first cross-organisation National Demonstration in Consett.  This was co-organised by No To Hassockfield, Abolish Detention, Durham People’s Assembly and Women for Refugee Women. We had a great turnout of between 200 and 300 people and had some amazing media coverage. Here is a BBC article from the demo:

We wanted to do a call out to other refugee support and anti-detention organisations to inform you of the next National Demonstration taking place in Durham City Centre on the 14th of May (12-3pm) (flyer attached in this email).  We have chosen Durham city centre because Durham is a city of Sanctuary and is only 25 minutes away from the site. We hope that by hosting in Durham where there are better transport links, that more people are able to attend, and we can help spread the word even further. We have some incredible speakers lined up for this event, some of whom are traveling across the country to be there and show support, including, but not limited to: 

🧡 Agnes Tanoh: former refugee from Ivory coast, previously detained in Yarls Wood IRC, now campaigner, speaker and activist, as well as member of Women for Refugee Women. 

🧡 Roza Salih: former child refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan, known as one of the ‘Glasgow Girls’, now campaigner and activist. 

🧡 Margaret Owen OBE: 90-year-old human rights lawyer who has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of women and girls, particularly asylum seekers and refugees. 

🧡 Kate Fox: poet, broadcaster and writer who battles against the erosion of fundamental rights and uses words to spread hope and love. 

🧡 Gulwali Passarlay: former child refugee from Afghanistan, now graduate, speaker, activist and campaigner. Also, author of the best-selling book ‘The Lightless Sky’. 

🧡 Mary Foy MP: local MP for the City of Durham. Has battled against this site from the beginning, raising parliamentary questions and putting pressure on the government. 

🧡 Mariam Yusuf: asylum-seeker from Somalia, won the Women on The Move ‘Women of the Year’ award in 2016, has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of asylum seekers and women who have experienced domestic violence and FGM. 

We also have some incredible musicians and performers lined up for the day. We are encouraging people to wear orange 🧡 , the colour of solidarity and compassion for those forcibly displaced, if you are able to do so, as well as bring signs of love and support, to show the government what we think of their asylum and immigration policies. 

Hassockfield/Derwentside IRC may be strategically located (or hidden) in an out-of-the-way, middle-of-nowhere site, but that does in no way mean this is a hidden issue. This is a national issue, and one we are trying to make extremely visible. We must come together to oppose this site, and all other inhumane, expensive, and unnecessary immigration prisons across the country. 

Here’s how you can support us or get involved now: 

  • Please help us circulate and advertise the National Demonstration happening in less than a month’s time. Plese feel free to share our graphics and link to the Facebook Event here:
  • Please attend our national demonstration if you can! It would be so incredible to have organisations from across the country there in solidarity. 
  • Follow us on Twitter: @NoTo Hassockfield
  • Email us for more information:
  • Visit our website for more information and a link to where donations can be made to help us continue spreading the word and provide us with the means to host future demonstrations like the one on the 14th of May: 

We are hoping to increase campaign contacts and activities. It would be amazing if we could connect, and mutually support each other as organisations who believe in the asylum rights, migrant rights and human rights. We would love if anyone from your organisation could promote, support, or join the N2H campaign. Let us know if you would like to be added to the mailing list and/or anyone would like to come along to one of our monthly zoom meetings to find out more. 
We hope to see some of you on the 14th of May in Durham. Thank you for taking the time to read this message. 

Best wishes and in solidarity, 
Emma On Behalf on the No To Hassockfield Campaign

Updated 21 March 2022: Event: National Demonstration against Hassockfield Immigration Prison SATURDAY, 14 MAY 2022 FROM 12:00-15:00

Event by The No To Hassockfield Campaign and Abolish Detention – Hassockfield Palace Green, Durham, DH1 3, United Kingdom

In the last few days of 2021, the first women were transferred to Hassockfield (now known as Derwentside) Immigration Prison. This prison is only a 30 minute drive away from Durham city centre.

Many of the women incarcerated at Hassockfield are innocent of any criminal activity and are detained for unjust, unnecessary and inhumane administrative purposes.

Majority of women within immigration detention have endured unimaginable trauma from human trafficking, modern slavery, torture, abuse and gender-based violence. We know that confinement and imprisonment resurfaces trauma and renders women especially, extremely vulnerable.

The opening of this immigration prison completely contradicts previous Home Office pledges to reduce the number of immigration removal centres (prisons!) across the country.

Since March 2021, we have been committed and will continue to be committed to doing all we can to get this prison shut down! This site could instead be used for something that will bring benefit and hope to those in the surrounding community, creating jobs that aren’t founded in the inhumane exploitation and detention of human beings.

It’s time we made the UK a welcoming, supportive and kind place that welcomes those who are forcibly displaced, no matter where they come from. No one chooses to be a refugee. It is time the Government abolishes its hostile policies, and closing immigration prisons like these is the first step in doing so!Please join us and stand in solidarity against this abhorrent facility. We are calling for the government to #ShutItDown and #SetHerFree!🧡 Speakers to be confirmed
🧡 Please bring banners with your own messages to the government
🧡 This demonstration is being organised by No To Hassockfield, Abolish Detention, Durham People’s Assembly and Women For Refugee Women See less

Updated 19 March 2022:

Updated 8 March 2022: BBC: Derwentside detention centre: Protest held for International Women’s Day

Campaigners have laid flowers outside a female immigration detention centre to mark International Women’s Day.

About 20 people protested outside Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre in County Durham.

The government said the centre houses foreign national prison inmates due for release and immigration offenders awaiting deportation.

Protesters said it was “more humane and cheaper” to keep the women “in the community”.

The centre at Hassockfield, Consett, which has capacity for 84 people, replaced Yarl’s Wood as the UK’s only women’s only centre when it opened at the end of last year.

The site previously served as the Medomsley detention centre for young offenders and was the scene of widespread abuse for decades before it shut in 1988.

Read more:

Updated 4 March 2022: Duncan Lewis (from 25 Feb 2022) ‘Home Office Policy Discriminates Against Women Refugees’

Duncan Lewis Solicitors has issued a judicial review against the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) and her failure to provide access to in-person legal advice to women refugees in Derwentside immigration removal centre.

Under instruction from the charity Women for Refugee Women (WFRW), our challenge contends that this failure amounts to discrimination and affects their “fundamental right to access of justice.”

Female detainees at the County Durham removal centre, many of them victims of gender based violence and trafficking, have been told that they can only obtain legal advice over the phone, unlike men in similar circumstances.

Around a dozen women were transferred to Derwentside immigration removal centre, a former youth prison in County Durham, at the end of December. The centre replaced Yarl’s Wood as the main site for women detained for immigration purposes. Despite assurances in the Equality Impact Assessment that an in-person service would be available, the SSHD opened Derwentside without this in place.

Detainees can receive up to 30 minutes of free legal advice irrespective of financial eligibility. Our public law team’s own research revealed there is an inadequate number of immigration legal aid lawyers near the centre. Ministers cancelled the process of procuring legal advice provision for the new centre in November 2021, after receiving insufficient compliant tenders. The surgery rota was allocated to London-based firms, which had previously provided surgery advice at Yarl’s Wood. However, the Derwnentside centre is 10 hour round trip from London, making it impractical for face-to-face meetings.

On behalf of our client, our public law team says that the shift to Derwentside has resulted in discrimination against the women who will be held there, up to 80 detainees, as they are only able to access legal advice by phone, unlike at many of the centres occupied by men.

The vast majority of detained women are survivors of gender-based violence and trafficking. The WFRW charity contends that it takes a number of face-to-face attendances to build a rapport with such vulnerable clients and that there are going to be numerous issues with disclosure with this current set up.

Public law solicitor Shalini Patel said: “The Home Secretary’s decision to detain women at Derwentside, despite the issues with access to face-to-face legal advice is extremely concerning. Her own policy recognises that survivors of trafficking and/or gender-based violence may have additional difficulties with self-identifying and disclosing their trauma and yet she has continued with a women’s detention centre, in the knowledge that its location would severely restrict the detainees’ fundamental right to access of justice.”

To support Women for Refugee Women and help stop the detention of women at Derwentside please visit their Crowd Justice fund HERE

Read more here:

Updated 24 February 2022: via Freemovement: Women at Risk of Deportation Being Refused In-Person Legal Advice

The Home Office is being taken to court over claims women at risk of deportation are being refused in-person legal advice. The campaign group Women for Refugee Women are seeking a judicial review over claims women held at Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre have only been able to access legal advice by telephone. This is despite assurances from the Home Office that in-person advice, initially unavailable due to the pandemic, could be accessed ‘on request’. The group say they are unaware of anyone being able to access face to face visits since the centre opened in December.
The charity say that lack of access to in-person legal advice harms women in detention, in particular considering research shows the majority of women in immigration detention are survivors of serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape and trafficking. They are concerned survivors will have difficulties disclosing what has happened to them to someone they’ve never met, over the phone, and this may have significant negative consequences in terms of their legal case.
Read more: Samantha Dulieu, Justice Gap,

Updated 27 January 2022: BBC: Newcastle project finds community better than detention for asylum claims

A pilot project funded by the Home Office has found it is more humane and less expensive to support asylum seekers in the community rather than in detention centres.

Refugee charity, Action Foundation, supported 20 women in a community setting in Newcastle.

It found the women experienced more stability and better health.

Most had previously been detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

In November 2021, a new female-only Immigration Removal Centre opened near Consett in County Durham to house 80 women.

The Derwentside centre has attracted criticism from various campaign groups including Durham People’s Assembly, Abolish Detention and No To Hassockfield, which says the women housed there should be allowed to live in the community.

Agnes Tanoh, a former detainee at Yarl’s Wood and now a campaigner against the Derwentside centre, said: “I think the best way is to put people in the community, to welcome people who are in need, who have fled persecution.”

Action Foundation chief executive Duncan McAuley said the results of the project “clearly demonstrated that these women would be better served in a community setting”.

The evaluation also found the cost of keeping people in the community could be less than half the cost per participant per night than holding an individual in detention.

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Updated 17 January 2022: Agnes, and Moses speaking on 15 January 2022 at Hassockfield

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Updated 3 January 2022: Chronicle Live: Asylum campaigners gather outside County Durham detention centre to show support for women inside

Protesters say the first groups of women have now been transferred to the Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre, near Consett

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1 January 2022: StatusNow4All stands with you, shoulder to shoulder, in unconditional solidarity. There will be no peace until the injustice of detention is stopped and everyone who is here in the UK is living with their status and enjoying its complete equity of access to our rights as human beings. Solidarity

Updated 16 December 2021: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons: Report on an unannounced inspection of the detention of migrants at Dover and Folkestone Detention facilities: Tug Haven, Kent Intake Unit and Frontier House by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 8 October and 1–3 November 2021

This report covers inspections of the detention facilities at Tug Haven and Kent Intake Unit (KIU) in Dover, and Frontier House in Folkestone. The facilities mainly held people who had arrived from France on small boats after undertaking sea crossings from France. Several hundred people arrived at Tug Haven during the inspection and most went directly to immigration removal centres (IRCs) or hotel or hostel accommodation. The Home Office did not keep data on the length of time people spent at Tug Haven, but about 2,000 people, including over 700 unaccompanied children, had been held at KIU or Frontier House in the previous three months for an average of more than 26 hours. The longest detained person was held for over four days and the longest detained child had been held for over 90 hours.

Our last inspection in September 2020 found that these facilities were badly equipped to meet their purpose. Detainees were experiencing unacceptably poor conditions and important safeguarding processes had broken down. Poor contingency planning meant that there was not an effective response to the fluctuating numbers of arrivals. Following that inspection, we were assured by the Home Office that rapid action would be taken to improve both strategic planning and the conditions in which detainees were held. However, despite some limited progress, detainees, including large numbers of unaccompanied children, continued to experience very poor treatment and conditions.

A new marquee at Tug Haven now gave arriving migrants better cover from the elements and there was enough dry clothing and food. However, many people, including families with young children, spent over 24 hours in tents with no sleeping facilities.

The main holding room at KIU remained inadequate. The facility could comfortably hold a small number of people for a few hours but was wholly unsuitable for its intended capacity of 56 people, who could be held for several days. Detainees were confined to a permanently lit room without access to fresh air or even the chance to look outside because of the frosted windows. We observed 40 people in the holding room, barely able to move and unable to rest properly after exhausting journeys. Records showed that others had recently been held there for three to four days. There was only one shower at KIU, and detainees were not always told that it was available.

While KIU was now intended to hold only unaccompanied minors or people whose age was disputed, adult men, women, families and unaccompanied children were regularly held together in the same facility and had resulted in significant safeguarding concerns. For example, during our inspection, an adult male ex-offender considered to pose a medium risk of harm to the public was held together with unrelated children.

Detention staff reported that the poor conditions in the crowded facility and extended detention had led to a great deal of distress and frustration among detainees. Detainees did not have access to their own phones and had generally inadequate phone access to contact family, friends or lawyers after arrival.

It was positive that KIU now had sufficient social workers and 24-hour health care. However, the social workers were contracted for age-dispute cases only and their skills were underused in an environment where safeguarding was an ongoing concern for many other children and some vulnerable adults.

Overall, despite some improvements from a very low base, we found conditions that were at times completely unsatisfactory, and ongoing weaknesses in Home Office governance and systems of accountability and safeguarding. A new replacement facility at the Western Jet Foil was not due to be fully operational until June-July 2022 despite an initial plan for it to be open by the end of August 2021 Home Office leaders also told us of appropriate plans for an improved new KIU facility and up to a thousand triage places in accommodation at different sites around Dover, which could be used flexibly to meet needs. However, these facilities were not due to open until spring/summer 2022.

It is unclear why there had been such delays following the assurances that we were given by the Home Office after our last inspection. Leaders told us of difficulties in coordinating the various partners whose cooperation was required, but this was not a sufficient explanation for why, one year later, we still found people being held for even longer in conditions that were so inadequate.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, November 2021

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15 December 2021: Home Office: New secure site for processing illegal migrants

Manston in Kent announced as new site for secure processing of small boat arrivals.

The Home Office has confirmed that part of the Ministry of Defence site at Manston, Kent will be used as a processing site for illegal migrants by January 2022.

The new, secure site will be able to hold migrants for up to 5 days as security and identity checks are completed.

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Updated 17 May 2021: See the petition to close Hassockfield:

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Agnes Tanoh, a refugee woman and community organiser who was previously held in detention at Yarl’s Wood, has launched an online petition against the new centre. She says: 

‘This is personal for me. I claimed asylum here because I was being persecuted in my country and I thought I would be killed. But I was locked up at Yarl’s Wood for 3 months. I know how detention destroys a woman. Women become depressed and suicidal in detention. I don’t want to see this happen to any of my sisters. Previously, the Home Office said it would make changes so that fewer people are locked up. I thought change was coming, I allowed myself to feel some hope. If this detention centre opens the Home Office will be going back on its promises, and will harm vulnerable women who need support.’

Guardian: Home Office plan for women’s immigration centre faces legal challenge

Campaigners and MPs express concerns at proposals for new detention facility in Durham

A charity is challenging the planned opening of a new immigration detention centre for 80 women in County Durham – the Home Office’s first new detention centre since 2014.

Women for Refugee Women, whose work includes advocating for women in immigration detention, challenges whether the Home Office is complying with equality rules in the development of the new detention centre.

It has started legal action against the Home Office over a planned centre at Hassockfield in County Durham, which is due to open in the autumn.

Alphonsine Kabagabo, director of Women for Refugee Women, said: “The majority of women seeking asylum who are locked up in immigration detention are survivors of rape, trafficking, torture and other horrific violence. Detention re-traumatises them and makes it even more difficult for them to resolve their immigration cases.”

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14 January 2021: Northern Echo: Plans revealed to build prison-style immigration camp on site of former Hassockfield Detention Centre

GOVERNMENT plans to scrap a residential development in favour of creating an immigration detention centre on the site of a notorious facility have been described as “madness”.

Durham county councillors are demanding answers after Ministry of Justice plans emerged, proposing to turn the former Hassockfield Detention Centre, in Medomsley, into a Category 3-style prison to detain around 80 people who have had applications for UK residency denied.

The council had approved a planning application from Homes England for 127 new homes on the site, over a year ago. [Read more here: ]