Pentecost Sunday marked the first anniversary of the Interfaith Prayer Vigil taking place at the barrier to Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre, where 33 people gathered to pray for people seeking asylum and especially for the growing numbers of women detained in the centre.

People attending were people of many traditions; Catholics, Anglican, Methodist and Quaker along with people from other faiths and none. The vigil lasted about 45 minutes including a 15 minute period of silence.

Each month a banner made of templates of doves with thoughts and prayers from churches and faith groups across the area is taken to the vigil as a symbol of the many people who are praying for the detainees.

People attending come from the local area and from wider areas such as Hexham, Morpeth, Newcastle, Durham, Crook and Stockton. They come to pray and to show solidarity and concern for those seeking asylum and pray for a more just and humane asylum system.

Here are a selection of photos from the Prayer Vigil:

BBC Radio Interviews

Dr Beverley Prevatt Goldstein was interviewed by BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Radio Tees to discuss the Prayer Vigil. Click on the links below to listen to her interviews:

Background to the monthly Interfaith Prayer Vigil

On learning of the plans to open the Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre members of the Justice and Peace network reached out to other members of faith communities and decided to meet monthly to pray for the women to be held in detention there as a sign of witness and solidarity.

The first vigil was on Pentecost Sunday, 2021. In keeping with Covid 19 restrictions and concerns at the time that event was broadcast from the Emmaus village, which is the base of Hexham and Newcastle’s youth service. There were also groups praying in person in various churches in the area. And from August 2021 the prayer vigils have taken place on the first Sunday of each month at 3.00pm at the barrier at the entrance of the detention centre itself.

These events – lasting about 40 minutes – allow those in opposition to the detention of women in this undignified way, to gather and show solidarity. Other practical support is provided through the provision of toiletries and other necessities to women who have very little or no access to any financial support. As with the prayerful approach of the vigils itself, this practical activity shows solidarity with those whose lives are in very personal crisis, and possibly in physical danger following repatriation.

Those attending and participating with prayer at home, believe that there are more humane and dignified ways to treat the detained women than having them locked up in a prison-like environment – in a remote part of County Durham. More often than not, the detained women have no idea as to when they could be deported and this uncertainty only increases their sense of fragility and distress.

For more information, email Liz Archibald: lizarchibald.justiceandpeace@gmail.com.

Click here to download the the Prayer Service or watch the video below.

The next event will be held on Sunday 3 July and you can find out more by clicking on the button below.