Mary has recently been contacted by a significant number of constituents who have voiced their objections to the Government’s proposals to open an immigration detention centre at the Hassockfield site in Medomsley. Mary herself has very grave concerns about these plans, and so has recently written to the Home Secretary to outline her opposition, and to urge the Government to reconsider these plans.
You can read Mary’s letter below:
Dear Home Secretary,
I am writing to you to register my opposition, and that of my constituents, to the creation of an immigration detention facility for 80 women at the Hassockfield site in Medomsley. Over 1500 people have signed a letter in opposition to this facility and I share their concerns.
To begin with, I want to make clear my moral objection to immigration detention centres. Institutions like the proposed Hassockfield facility serve only to criminalise and imprison people simply because of where they were born. Over the last eleven years, the Government has pursued a discriminatory and unjust immigration system, designed to create a hostile environment for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. I am deeply concerned by the Government’s intention to expand its detention system into County Durham.
The Government’s decision to increase the number of women in detention is especially objectionable as evidence suggests that the majority of the women imprisoned at the Hassockfield site will not be deported and will instead be released back into the community to continue their asylum claims. In 2019, only 37% of those leaving detention were removed from the UK, while in 2020, this figure was just 26%. This number is even lower for women asylum seekers.
It is therefore likely that, while the Government may refer to the new facility as an ‘immigration removal centre’, the proposed site will simply serve to increase the number of women in unjust detention. I would therefore ask what purpose this facility will serve other than to temporarily imprison women seeking refuge, many of which are survivors of rape and other gender-based violence?
However, local concerns go beyond moral objections to detention centres. As you are no doubt aware, the proposed site for the new facility was the location of Medomsley Detention Centre. During the 1970s and 1980s, countless young men were subject to the most horrific physical and sexual abuse by centre staff at this facility, with over 1800 men having reported abuse by staff to the police. Understandably, the scale of this abuse has led to scars that remain with the victims and in the local community today, not least because many victims have been unable to access the justice they deserve.
Responding to my written question on 25th March, Chris Philip MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, stated that:
‘The former Medomsley Detention Centre was demolished and rebuilt in 1988. Whilst I have every sympathy for victims of historic abuse at the former centre, officials do not have plans to undertake any consultation on the future immigration removal centre.’
I am deeply concerned that the Government has such disregard for the impact of victims of abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre. Opening a detention centre that will imprison many vulnerable people on the site of a facility that saw horrific abuses of its charges, has the potential to be deeply traumatic for those affected and is arguably an insult to the survivors, their families, and the local community. I would strongly urge the you to reconsider this callous stance and to undertake this consultation.
Finally, the decision to impose a new detention centre upon the local community has forced Durham County Council to abandon a project to build over 100 houses, including much-needed affordable housing, which would have been far more beneficial to the community than a detention facility for asylum seekers that will only cause controversy and stoke division. It is extremely disheartening to see that the Government have such disregard for the plans of the local authority, as well as for the needs of the local community. I would be grateful if you could clarify what steps the Government plans to take to increase affordable housing in County Durham to make up for this decision and how the Government intends to prioritise the local community moving forward.
To end, I would like to reiterate my objection to the creation of an immigration removal centre at the Hassockfield site in the strongest possible terms. This facility will be imposed on a community by the Government and rides roughshod over significant and widely held local concerns.
Residents in Durham stand in opposition to the Government’s cruel and discriminatory hostile environment policy. I urge you to reconsider the plans for this facility and to consider alternatives to imprisoning and deporting asylum seekers.
I look forward to your response.