Fears Over Coltishall Immigration Centre

Fears over Coltishall immigration centre

The Norwich Evening News
11 April 2007 09:01

Concern about what would happen if RAF Coltishall is used for an immigration centre were reignited today after it emerged escapes from a similar centre in Cambridgeshire rocketed last year.

A decision on whether to build a detention centre for immigrants on part of the former RAF Coltsihall site is still several weeks away.

But news that the number of escapes from Oakington immigration centre went up last year has heightened concerns expressed by villagers earlier this year that a similar site in Coltishall could be hit with the same problems.

New figures show that there were 19 escapes from Oakington last year and seven attempts to break out, compared with just four escapes and four attempted escapes in 2005.

Last month two detainees broke out after climbing over a fence – an embarrassment for the controversial centre as it came just weeks after the escape of four other detainees.

Broadland district councillor for Coltishall Alan Mallett, who is standing for re-election next month, said: That sort of thing is obviously going to be of considerable concern to people in the village.

The lack of security has always been a major concern should RAF Coltsihall become an immigration centre, as I doubt whether any of the inmates will want to hang about and will be desperate to get down to London where they won't stand out so much.

John Harding, Coltishall Parish Council chairman, added: Security has always been the main concern of the people living in the area of the three parishes. It's a worrying trend for anybody who might be living nearby.

Senior members of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), the arm of the Home Office responsible for immigration and asylum, travelled to Norfolk last month to answer questions from a range of councillors, MPs and other parties about possible plans for a holding centre.

It was revealed that although the former airbase has been passed from the MoD to the Home Office no money has yet changed hands.

Last year an officer at the immigration detention centre in Gosport, Hampshire was injured when more than 30 of the 160 inmates were involved in rioting.

RAF Coltsihall closed last year as part of large scale cuts in the armed forces. It was built in 1939 and became a fighter station in 1940. The Evening News revealed last year the base was being considered for use as a prison, for homes for migrant workers, an incinerator or even a worm farm.

How do you feel about the former airbase becoming an immigration centre? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk or have your say at www.eveningnews24.co.uk/forums