CONTROVERSIAL plans to reopen a detention centre to house failed female asylum seekers look set to go ahead despite opposition from the local authority.

Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, near Consett, has been refurbished and, by the end of the year, will be used hold up to 80 foreign nationals for up to four months before they are deported.

Durham County Council objects to the opening of Derwentside Immigration and Removal Centre, which will replace the Yarl’s Wood facility in Bedford, and is going ahead instead of a major housing plan after the site was acquired by the Home Office.

Read more: Durham County Council states opposition to Hassockfield plan

On Tuesday, before the arrival of the first 'residents', the Northern Echo was invited to take a look at the new facilities.

The Northern Echo:

Entrance to the exercise area at Derwentside IRC 

The Northern Echo:

Derwentside IRC is formerly Hassockfield Secure Training Centre 

The Northern Echo:

The exercise area of Derwentside IRC

The Northern Echo:

There is a quirky outdoor settee covered in astroturf 

Campaigners argue the detention of immigrants, including women fleeing war, persecution, sexual violence who may have been subject to trafficking, is inhumane.

But proponents of the scheme, including North-West Durham MP Richard Holden, claim it will create 200 jobs and show the UK is not a ‘soft touch’ when it comes to immigration.

The Home Office said Derwentside IRC will hold a mixture of time-served foreign national offenders and immigration offenders while preparations are made to remove them from the UK.

The Northern Echo:

Some bedrooms have twin beds so family members can share 

Mr Holden said: “I want people with no right to be in the UK deported. Britain has been a soft touch for far too long and I will back all measures to deliver a strong immigration system that removes those with no right to be in the UK.”

The centre is on the site of the former Medomsley Detention Centre, a borstal now infamous for the systematic abuse of young boys during the 60s and 70s.

On Tuesday, Tom Pursglove, the Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, inspected the new facilities.

The Northern Echo:

Tom Pursglove MP at Derwentside IRC

He said: “Those experiences are horrendous and we would not wish that on anybody, but this is a new provision.

“This is a detention facility for women and has been designed specifically for women and is responsive to their needs.”

The Northern Echo:

IT facilities are available for the residents 

The Northern Echo:

The facility has private rooms where the needs of new residents are assessed 

The Northern Echo:

Residents are not locked in their rooms at night but will have stay in their section of the centre 

Mary Foy MP, who represents the neighbouring constituency of Durham City, said she shared the feelings of 1,500 people who signed an open letter opposing the opening of the facility.

She said: “The Home Office, and the Conservative Party, continue to use the plight of refugees for political point scoring.

"Something to wheel out to show that they are ‘tough on immigration’.

“But what are they actually being tough on? Because the reality is the people who will be punished will be victims of torture, of rape, and of other gendered violence.

"We will continue to stand against the hostile environment, against this detention centre, and against the Government’s repeated attempts to whip up hatred against vulnerable refugees.”

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