Letter from the Chair of Pax Christi Scotland to Brendan O’Hara MP
22 June 2021
Please sign a cross-party letter to the Home Secretary expressing concerns about the plans to open a new detention centre for women
Hon Brendan O’Hara MP,
I am writing to you as a constituent who is concerned about the Home Office’s plans to open a new immigration detention centre for women at Hassockfield in County Durham, in Autumn this year.
Most women held in immigration detention are known to be survivors of serious human rights abuses, including rape, trafficking and torture. Locking these women up in detention retraumatises them and has a lasting impact on their mental health.
As well as being harmful, the use of detention for women is usually completely pointless. In 2018, 86% of asylum-seeking women were released from detention back into the community, to continue with their asylum cases. Their detention served no purpose at all.
In April, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Detention held a meeting on the proposed new detention centre for women at Hassockfield. During the meeting they heard from Agnes Tanoh, a campaigner with Women for Refugee Women, who was held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre for three months in 2012. Agnes has now been granted refugee status in the UK. She said, “I know how detention destroys a woman. I don’t want to see this happen to any of my sisters.”
Following this meeting, the APPG on Detention and Mary Kelly Foy, MP for the City of Durham, are coordinating a cross-party letter to the Home Secretary expressing shared concerns about the plans for Hassockfield and urging her not to go ahead.
I am writing to ask if you will show you support for women seeking asylum by signing this letter?
You can read and sign the letter here: https://forms.gle/dG69RYqmeDCgUEUn6https://forms.gle/dG69RYqmeDCgUEUn6. The deadline for signatures is 5pm on Wednesday 23rd June.
I hope that you will stand up for women seeking asylum and take action against this proposed new detention centre.
Reply from Brendan O’Hara MP
8 July 2021
Thank you for taking the time to contact me to express your concerns regarding the detention centre for women.
As you quite rightly point out, the use of asylum detention centres for vulnerable women risks deepening trauma for some of the most vulnerable people in the world, often fleeing unimaginable horror
Unfortunately, for those in detention, the already harsh conditions for asylum seekers have been exasperated by the current health crisis. The SNP have repeatedly raised their concern regarding the deterioration of the conditions that asylum seekers are being held in.
Volunteers and others who have visited these facilities have told very concerning stories over conditions and the harm this can cause vulnerable residents. In particular, the use of military barracks is appalling and flies in the face of expert opinion as to their suitability, particularly during a pandemic.
My SNP colleague Stuart McDonald MP spoke in the Commons during the passage of the Immigration Bill, urging the Government to support amendments to help create an immigration system that would work for all parts of the UK.
SNP MPs in Westminster will also be speaking out strongly against the Home Office’s “New Plan’ for immigration if legislation is presented in parliament this year and calling for a humane approach to those seeking asylum in the UK.
Rest assured that my SNP colleagues and I will continue to do all we can to support those in the asylum system, to pressure the UK Government to do more to ensure that asylum seekers get the support they need, and to call for the powers for Scotland to create an immigration system that reflects our values rather than the UK Government’s hostile environment.