CAMPAIGNERS opposed to a new detention centre for refugees have held held a vigil at the site to remember all those who died as a result of 'hostile environment' policies.

Members of the Abolish Detention: Hassockfield group gathered at the new Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre where up to 80 failed asylum seekers at a time will be held prior to deportation.

The facility, formerly Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, at Medomsley, near Consett, is due to open next month after the Home Office scheme went ahead despite opposition from Durham County Council.

The Northern Echo:

The vigil at Derwentside IRC

Campaigners laid candles and flowers, heard testimonies from former detainees, read names of those who died in detention centres, and held banners reading “No more deaths in detention” and “Migrant justice now”. Work at the site was delayed by one hour, as the vigil was held by the gates.

A spokesperson for Abolish Detention said: “Detention is an inhumane practice that has been responsible for the harm and traumatisation of migrant communities.

“Deportation puts individuals at risk of persecution in the country from which they fled and tears families apart.

“It should be noted that the UK is the only member of the 47 Member State Council of Europe to use the inhumane practice of indefinite detention.

“Many people who have experienced detention centres in the UK have described them as prison-like or worse in their conditions.”

It is understood that, after a period of staff training, women will be transferred at the beginning of December.

Campaigners point out no consultation was carried out with the local community.

The Northern Echo:

Home Secretary Priti Patel

In a written ministerial statement to Parliament announcing the decision, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Detention plays a limited, but crucial role in maintaining effective immigration control and securing our borders.

“It is right that those with no right to remain in the UK are removed if they do not leave voluntarily.

“This new, smaller immigration removal centre will replace Yarl’s Wood as the only dedicated immigration removal centre for women. Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of women is at the forefront of the new facility, and builds on the learning and experience of Yarl’s Wood.”

Read more: Pictures from inside the controversial immigration detention centre due to open next month

The move has been opposed by some local people, politicians and campaign groups and meant previous plans for a multi-million pound housing scheme from Homes England that were approved by the local authority would be scrapped.

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, boys held at the Medomsley Detention Centre, which was on the site, endured horrific abuse and 1,800 complaints have been made.

The Hassockfield centre was closed in 2015 but remained part of the Home Office ‘Detention Estate’.

The Northern Echo:

Former North West Durham MP Laura Pidcock 

North West Durham MP Richard Holden is in favour of the facility, arging 200 jobs are being created, but his predecessor Laura Pidcock has publicly opposed the move on social media.

She said: "This is part of the deepening of the hostile environment - our fellow human beings detained by what is a dehumanising immigration system.

"Please join us at the National Demonstration on Saturday, December 4 at 11.30am in Consett."

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