No to Hassockfield! MHNE Supports Campaign raising Concerns over Return to Detention at Medomsley

In January it was suddenly announced that Detention would return to a site in County Durham. A campaign group was formed, No to Hassockfield, to oppose the Home Office & Ministry of Justice plan to turn former Medomsley Detention Centre into an Immigration Removal Centre for women.

MHNE Chairperson Neil Kelly says “our main concern is that mental health and wellbeing issues for those who will be detained there have not been factored into these plans.”

Owain Gardner, core member of the campaign group, says: “The shadow of Medomsley’s past will hang heavily over the women detained there and the workers who oversee them. Its reputation for brutality and abuse of imprisoned young men is widely known.

Now known as Hassockfield, it is a place which causes pain across the North East to this day. The original plan was to demolish the buildings on-site, replacing them with housing, including affordable homes, landscaping, investment in local schools, a doctor’s surgery’s and more. They have simply railroaded this plan out of existence at short notice, with no local scrutiny and no local voice was heard, despite the site’s history.”

Owen Temple, a Durham County Councillor also from the group, was stunned to learn that none of the men abused at Medomsley nor any of the workers who had been employed at the Hassockfield Secure Training Centre were consulted.   The mental health implications of an Immigration Removal Centre being forced onto County Durham are immense, especially as the investigation into Medomsley Detention Centre, Operation Seabrook, is still taking evidence.

Former MEP Julie Ward said "As a woman who campaigns vigorously to end violence against women, I am appalled at the government's continued use of detention in respect of vulnerable women, many of whom are already deeply traumatised by their experiences. Women asylum seekers experience violence at every stage of their journey and many suffer PTSD. It is time for the UK to end this cruel unnecessary practice. We can’t thank MHNE enough for their support in this campaign.”
The centre is due to open this Summer, with a view to holding up to 87 women, despite the Westminster Government’s policy being to reduce both the Estate and numbers in detention.

Ultimately, however, the mental health implications for those women who will be held there are too often ignored. Agnes Tonah, a former Asylum Seeker who was held in Yarl’s Wood, spoke to No To Hassockfield saying: “detention destroys a woman. Women become depressed and suicidal. This is personal for me… I don't want to see this happen to any of my sisters who are looking for safety."

The campaign has grown from nothing to having local, national and international reach. From Lord Alf Dubs supporting the campaign to an article in the Observer and even attention in Brussels. Find out more here: https://northeastbylines.co.uk/no-to-hassockfield/ and if you have your own concerns, please consider writing to the local press. The campaign is on Twitter at @NoToHassockfield and https://www.facebook.com/groups/358544485247513