Plans to make Campsfield House immigration centre at Kidlington bigger, spark concern (From Oxford Mail)
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Plans to make immigration centre bigger spark concern
OXFORDSHIRE’S immigration detention centre is to expand with campaigners claiming it will almost double in size.
The Home Office said Campsfield House, Kidlington will expand the 216-bed centre, but no final decisions have been taken.
Campaign to Close Campsfield organiser Bill MacKeith said an employee of security firm Mitie – which runs Campsfield – said beds will increase from 540 to 630.
It is unclear whether an extension would be built or the beds would be squeezed into the current buildings.
A block at Campsfield House was damaged by an arson attack last October.
Mr MacKeith said: “Home Office officials have stated that the Government plans to increase the capacity of Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre from the present 280, when Blue Block, closed by the October 2013 fire, reopens.
He claims the expansion would take place by “packing in more beds into the same area”.
He added: “A Mitie employee at Campsfield stated this week that the figure is 630.”
Mr MacKeith says the group is opposed to any expansion that detains people who have not committed a crime.
He said: “The only people it’s good for is the politicians who think it will win votes and the private companies making a bomb.”
Home Office spokesman Richard Crowe said: “The refurbishment of accommodation at Campsfield House damaged by fire in October last year is nearing completion, with a reopening planned for early summer.
“We are also at the early stages of planning an expansion of the centre, although no final decisions have been taken.”
Douglas Williamson, Kidlington North Liberal Democrat member for Cherwell District Council, said he would oppose any planning application.
He said: “My understanding was they were going to improve the facilities, not that they were going to increase the number of detainees.
“But if he (Bill MacKeith) says that’s the case I’m sure it’s accurate.
“I would be extremely concerned if that were the case. I think Bill is a very reliable source of information.”
Maurice Billington, Conservative Kidlington South, said he wanted to find out more but said: “I would be a bit concerned if it was that many.”
Last October fire spread through one of the blocks at the Langford Lane centre and more than 100 detainees had to be moved to other centres.
The fire service said afterwards the blaze would not have spread to such an extent had a sprinkler system been installed.
In January the Home Office confirmed a sprinkler system would be installed.
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