Durham STAR campaigners gathered with signs protest NoToHassockfield

February 2022

For Student Volunteering Week 2022, we are celebrating STAR volunteers and their contributions. There are thousands of students dedicating their time to make the UK a more welcoming place for refugees and people seeking asylum. In this blog, Lauren shares with us how Durham University got involved in the #NoToHassockfield campaign.

Tell us what the No To Hassockfield campaign is…

The #NotoHassockfield is is a campaign to close the new Hassockfield/Derwentside Immigration Detention and Removal Centre which is located just 30 minutes away from Durham. The campaign group is made up of many groups of people who are united in their belief that the Centre should not exist.

We see the diverse range of people who stand together against the site at the monthly public demonstrations that the NotoHasssockfield group organise.The peaceful protests show so many people coming together and it is so inspiring to witness the public protest against the government’s hostile immigration policies. I always meet so many inspiring people who are doing incredible work to improve the treatment of people seeking asylum and people who are refugees. It’s really nice to be able to chat with people face-to-face, and it’s fab to meet people from the local community outside of the uni bubble! 

Durham STAR campaigners gathered with signs protest NoToHassockfield

Why is it important?

Women are now imprisoned in the immigration centre, so it’s really important to make the demos as loud as possible so that women will (hopefully) be able to hear that there are many people who do not want them to be imprisoned. A similar group (Campaign to Close Campsfield) put enough pressure on the government to close Campsfield House. It’s very possible that the NotoHassockfield campaign will achieve the same with the Hassockfield/Derwentside Detention Centre!

We at Durham STAR always feel more energised and ready to continue campaigning against Derwentside detention centre after going to the demonstrations. Seeing solidarity at the demos always makes campaigning back at Durham Uni way less isolating. It’s always a great reminder that we are absolutely not alone in working towards a country that does not detain people. 

Detention is repeatedly proven to be such a traumatic experience. It really serves no purpose at all and it is so tragic that this new immigration prison has opened. Sometimes hostile policies can feel distant from our everyday lives, but the new detention centre and the demos are a reminder that this is happening so close to us – we are all impacted by such an awful immigration detention system! 

There are always speakers at each demo who are opposing the detention centre for a range of different reasons. Listening to them reminds us of the many different ways that immigration detention is appalling. It is particularly good to hear from people with lived experience, their personal accounts reinforce why detention must be ended. 

From a student perspective, the NotoHassockfield Campaign is important because Mitie is the management company running the Derwentside/Hassockfield Detention Centre. Durham Uni have a £5 million contract with Mitie and we’re disgusted that our university is complicit in border violence. This shows just how interlinked hostile policies against people seeking asylum are. We are currently writing an open letter against Durham Uni’s contract with Mitie. It all feeds into what we can do as students to support people seeking asylum. 

Durham STAR campaigners gathered with signs protest NoToHassockfield

Why I volunteer with STAR

I realised that I was increasingly angry at the way our country is treating people who are refugees and who are seeking asylum. I wanted a way to work towards positive, meaningful change (rather than complaining about what was happening, which is what I was doing before)! Being part of Durham STAR has helped me do exactly that! I have been so inspired by everyone I’ve met through STAR – it is so inspiring to see so many people doing such great things to welcome people!

I also really like that there is a national network of STAR groups across the country. I love seeing what other student groups are doing and it is so nice to have a national team who supports us with all of our activities. 

I think that students working together are super powerful and it’s so good to be involved in collective solidarity!

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of working with really cool groups of people to campaign for more compassion for people seeking asylum and refugees – whether that be running events, organising fundraising activities, speaking to different people – it all contributes to all of our wider aims. 

I’m also really proud of our fundraising efforts against the detention centre. So far, we have run bake sales, a yoga night, karaoke night and we are continuing fundraising this term. 

What advice do you have for those looking to campaign in their local communities?

Reach out to people! If you want to get involved with any particular groups/ activities, message them. I have found that everyone campaigning for a more compassionate response to people seeking asylum and refugees are super friendly and want you to be involved!

Durham STAR signs placed in protesting NoToHassockfield

How you can get involved:

Find your local STAR group here – make a real difference, meet new people and learn new skills.

No STAR group at your university? Join our growing network of student groups. We want to hear from you.

Are you a university student from a refugee and asylum-seeking background in the UK? Join the Equal Access Network

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