Immigration centre plans announced
11:57am Monday 19th May 2008
Government officials are looking at building a new detention centre for illegal immigrants in Oxfordshire, it was announced this morning.
The secure removal centre, which could open in Bicester by 2012, would hold up to 800 male inmates earmarked for deportation at any one time.
Home Office Minister Liam Byrne said the extra spaces, similar to those provided by Campsfield in Kidlington, would help the UK Border Agency lift the number of removals of ex-foreign national prisoners, failed asylum seekers and immigration offenders.
The proposed location for the centre, the A-Site at Arncott, is the same site on which the Government tried to build a controversial asylum centre that would have seen 750 asylum seekers allowed to move around the community freely.
That plan, first proposed in 2001, was shelved in 2005 before a brick had been laid following a vigorous campaign by residents, at a cost to the taxpayers of almost 30 million.
Banbury MP Tony Baldry, who played a leading role in the campaign against the abandoned asylum centre, said today the new proposal was substantially different.
Mr Baldry said: “This is an entirely different proposal. They are proposing a secure detention removal centre where failed asylum seekers are detained prior to being deported.
“It would have the same security classification as Bullingdon Prison.”
The Conservative MP added: “I don't see any reason why a removal centre should have any impact on the local community.
“If one believes in the need to have a robust immigration process it is necessary to deport people from time to time and they therefore need to be detained.”
Mr Baldry said he appreciated some residents would be “anxious” about the proposals, not least because of the long campaign the community fought against the Home Office's previous proposals, and said he would be addressing a public meeting in Arncott on Saturday morning to discuss the issue.
The Bicester centre was one of two new removal centres for which the Home Office announced it would “take forward” planning applications in the coming months. The other is Yarls Wood in Bedfordshire.
They are expected to provide the bulk of up to 1,500 new immigration removal centre places across the country.
Mr Byrne, who plans to visit local communities to explain the plans in person over the next few months, said: “We now remove an immigration offender every eight minutes – but my target is to remove more, and remove them faster.
“We have increased illegal working operations by 40 per cent and last year we deported 80 per cent more foreign criminals. Even though asylum claims are at a 14-year low, we are removing more failed asylum seekers each year.
“That means we need more detention space.
“Although stronger border security demands these controls, I know local communities will have concerns. My commitment is to listen to these personally.”
Last year the UK Borders Agency removed 4,200 foreign national prisoners, deporting a total of 63,140 illegal migrants from the UK.