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North East Liberal Democrats endorse opposition to Derwentside Immigration Detention Centre and the detention of vulnerable women

November 28, 2021 10:02 PM



Liberal Democrats in the North East have unanimously supported calls to oppose the imminent re-opening of the former Medomsley/Hassockfield detention centre at Medomsley, near Consett, as an Immigration Removal Centre for an estimated 80 or more women.

The North East Liberal Democrats recent Regional Party Conference unanimously backed a motion unreservedly condemning the unsuitability of Government plans to reopen the facility at the site of the former Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in coming weeks, citing fundamental human rights concerns about the ethical and legal basis of the Home Office's policy of detention of vulnerable people.

The party is highly critical of the unsuitability of the location, which is more than 300 miles from Heathrow and Gatwick deportation flights, lacks appropriate legal, linguistic or emotional support services for asylum seekers, and is on a site which has probably the worst record of sexual and physical abuse of inmates of any British penal institution.

The Liberal Democrats allege that the Government's decision to open the facility is careless of legal requirements for detention centres to be used only with a view to the removal from the country of detainees within a reasonable period. In 2020, only 14% of detained immigrant women were removed.

The North East Lib Dem motion seeks to end the detention for immigration breaches for vulnerable persons, including survivors of torture, victims of trafficking and modern slavery, and pregnant women. It calls for the closure of seven of the UK's nine immigration detention centres including Derwentside, and the introduction of a 28-day time limit on detention, with a requirement for judicial approval to detain someone for more than 72 hours. The party is calling for alternative community-based approaches to detention to be used in preference to imprisoning asylum seekers in prison-like institutions.

Liberal Democrat values are underpinned by a belief in the rights of accused to stand trial and the principle that any period of detention should be determined by due judicial process, with detention of immigrants being a policy of last resort.

Proposer Diana Simpson (Durham Liberal Democrats) said:

"Detention adds further trauma to people in desperate situations, particularly women, many of whom have been subjected to all kinds of violence, abuse, and exploitation on their journeys to seek sanctuary. Putting people in detention when they have sought our assistance and mercy is intolerant and inhumane. It is a prison sentence without trial with no knowledge of when it will end and what will befall them when it does.

We should be opposed to all detention of refugees, who can be just as effectively processed whilst living in the community. The vast majority of people from detention centres, when processed, are given leave to remain, causing them to have served an unjustified sentence."

Seconder Jemma Joy (Redcar Liberal Democrats) said:

"We believe this is the wrong place and the wrong decision. The Hassockfield facility has a traumatic history of gross abuse and it would be monstrous to risk this being perpetuated. We have practical objections to an unsuitable site hundreds of miles from Heathrow and Gatwick, with poor transport links and inadequate provision for healthcare, legal assistance, and support for the wellbeing of detainees.

Detention should be a last resort. The UK is the only country in Europe to detain people with no time limit and we know it is detrimental to the mental health of vulnerable detainees, with 40% of women detained in the system reporting self-harming. We wish to send a strong message to the Home Secretary that this facility is not appropriate in a free and fair society."



Diana Simpson (Durham Liberal Democrats) dianasimpson@hotmail.com 07754 905742

Jemma Joy (Redcar Liberal Democrats) jem-joy@hotmail.com 07812 416488

Note: You can also read the briefing paper here