Stop the detention of women at Derwentside

by Women for Refugee Women

Stop the detention of women at Derwentside

by Women for Refugee Women
Women for Refugee Women
Case Owner
Women for Refugee Women is a charity which supports and empowers refugee and asylum-seeking women in the UK. Please help us take the Home Office to court because they are harming women at Derwentside.
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Women for Refugee Women
Case Owner
Women for Refugee Women is a charity which supports and empowers refugee and asylum-seeking women in the UK. Please help us take the Home Office to court because they are harming women at Derwentside.
Pledge now

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Latest: May 12, 2022

BREAKING: We’re taking the Government to court in June!

We’ve been granted permission by a judge to proceed to the next stage of the legal challenge, and now have a date for the hearing at the end of June!

In the last few weeks, the Government have p…

Read more

What is Derwentside detention centre?

The government opened a new immigration detention centre, Derwentside (formerly known as Hassockfield), for women near Consett, County Durham in December 2021.

Derwentside is the first new detention centre to open in almost 8 years, marking a dangerous shift in the wrong direction.

The Home Office accepts that detention is harmful and have previously committed to locking up fewer people. By opening Derwentside, they have gone back on this promise.

Most women held in immigration detention are survivors of trafficking, rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Detention is re-traumatising and harmful, as well as being expensive and unnecessary.

Unlike in other detention centres, where men are detained, women at Derwentside can only access legal advice over the phone. This can have very damaging consequences for their cases.

Women are being disadvantaged and the government does not care. But we do, and we know you do too!

This detention centre should never have opened in the first place.


Why should it close?

Derwentside has capacity for 84 women to be locked up at any one time and replaces Yarl’s Wood as the main site where women are detained for immigration purposes.

There is no provision for in-person legal advice for women at Derwentside. Unlike in other detention centres in the UK, where men are detained, women at Derwentside are only able to access legal advice over the phone.

This is problematic and dangerous.

  • The majority of women in detention are survivors of sexual or other gender-based violence. Survivors of such violence have particular difficulties in disclosing what has happened to them, including because they can feel ashamed. They need to feel safe and build trust in order to talk about what has happened to them.
  • Women will be expected to disclose their traumatic experiences to someone they have never met, over the phone. We know that a consistent in-person connection is the best method of legal advice, so women can develop a rapport, feel safe and able to talk.
  • Difficulties in disclosing previous experiences can have significant negative consequences for women in detention. It can result in: delays in release from detention; inaccurate or incomplete legal advice being given; and their credibility being questioned.
  • The mobile reception at Derwentside is very poor. We have found it difficult to get hold of women we are in touch with, and we have also been cut off several times during phone conversations with women there. It is also very difficult for women to find quiet and private spaces within Derwentside that also have mobile reception, which poses an additional barrier to disclosure.

We must not let the government get away with this.

This new detention centre should have never opened in the first place. 

Detention is a political choice that inflicts lasting harm on women, their families and the wider community. Women’s asylum claims can be more effectively and humanely handled while they are living freely and with support in the community. 


Who are we?

Women for Refugee Women is a charity which supports and empowers refugee and asylum-seeking women in the UK.

We have been leading the Set Her Free campaign against the detention of women for many years and have published many reports documenting the harm that detention causes.

Our small detention campaigns team have been working tirelessly since we first heard about this new detention centre to prevent it from opening. And now we need your help.

Agnes Tanoh, our Detention Campaign Spokesperson, who was herself detained at Yarl’s Wood for over three months in 2012, says:

“When you come here to seek protection from abuse, exploitation and persecution but instead the Home Office locks you up, you wonder if you are in a good country or in hell. I am still living with the trauma of detention and I don’t want other women to go through this pain. 

From my own experience I know how important it is to meet your solicitor and build trust so that you can tell them your story. Body language is so important. To see a warm and kind face is like a hug when you need it most. Imagine having to tell a stranger about the most horrific intimate violence you have suffered. It’s not right. Women seeking safety should be able to live freely in their communities and have access to justice.”


What are we trying to achieve?

Derwentside detention centre should never have opened in the first place.

Detention is harmful, expensive and unnecessary. It is much better for women to continue their asylum claims within the community and with their loved ones.

We want Derwentside to be shut down and for the detention of women to stop altogether.


How much are we raising and why?

To take this legal action, we need your help. Your donations will be used to pay court fees and legal costs.

We will ask the court for a ‘cost cap’ on the costs for the case, but we still need to raise money to cover the potential liability up to the cost of the cap.

We also need to fundraise a contribution to our legal team’s costs as they are working on a heavily discounted basis.

Thank you for your support!


Update 2

Women for Refugee Women

May 12, 2022

BREAKING: We’re taking the Government to court in June!

We’ve been granted permission by a judge to proceed to the next stage of the legal challenge, and now have a date for the hearing at the end of June!

In the last few weeks, the Government have passed their cruel anti-refugee and anti-women Nationality and Borders Bill and announced plans to send people seeking safety to Rwanda. This marks an extremely worrying turning point in the UK’s approach to providing protection to those fleeing war and persecution.

We will not stand by while the Government threatens and punishes women seeking safety. We will do everything we can to stand up against their hostile anti-refugee agenda.

One way we’re doing this is by taking the Government to court in June!

Women seeking safety should be with their loved ones and in their communities, not locked up in immigration detention.

Derwentside should never have opened in the first place, and this is our chance to shut it down!

But we need your help to make it happen. Please spread the word to your friends and family to help us reach our target.

Together, we can stop the Government detaining women at Derwentside.

Thank you for your support!

Update 1

Women for Refugee Women

March 8, 2022

Help end detention on International Women's Day

 International Women’s Day is a day for celebration, to raise awareness of gender inequality and to take action for a better future. 

 But for some women in the UK, they’ll spend it locked up in detention. 

 Women who have come to our country to seek protection from war, persecution and violence are instead locked up by the government.  They are locked up without access to face-to-face legal advice, which is available in other detention centres where men are held. The government are disadvantaging women and treating them unfairly. 

As Agnes, our Detention Campaign Spokesperson said, “From my own experience I know how important it is to meet your solicitor and build trust so that you can tell them your story. Body language is so important. To see a warm and kind face is like a hug when you need it most. Imagine having to tell a stranger about the most horrific intimate violence you have suffered.” 

 Today, on International Women’s Day, and every other day of the year, we believe that all women deserve to live their lives freely, in safety and with their loved ones. 

 If you agree, please support us this International Women’s Day and help us take the government to court!

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