Cross-party opposition to immigration centre plans

5:00am Wednesday 22nd October 2014

By Annabal Bagdi

CAMPAIGNERS united this week against proposals to expand a Kidlington immigration detention centre.

Members of the Campaign to Close Campsfield group held a meeting about Campsfield House on Monday evening at Exeter Hall, in Oxford Road.

More than 40 residents and councillors, as well as MP for Oxford West and Abingdon Nicola Blackwood, gathered to discuss how to fight expansion plans.

The Ministry of Justice said it wants to increase beds at the Langford Lane centre from 216 to 496 within two years, although Ms Blackwood has said the number of beds would be 610.

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Cherwell District Council will make a final decision.

Director of Oxford’s Asylum Welcome Kate Smart told the meeting: “Asylum Welcome is not in favour of expanding Campsfield. The need for more detainment space anywhere is questionable because there are difficulties in the system.

“There are problems in the way that Campsfield is being run and that expanding it would only cause more problems.”

Conservative Ms Blackwood said the proposed expansion would resemble a Category B prison, with two people sharing a room and an open toilet.

She also said the “inappropriate design” would be built on Green Belt land.

Ms Blackwood added: “I am very opposed to it and I think many of the residents will be, on moral grounds as well as practical grounds.

“I have specific concerns about the designs proposed and there are also some significant problems with the proposed expansion.”

Applause echoed through the room after Larry Sanders, Green Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon at next year’s General Election, spoke on the issue.

He said: “The Green Party policy is very clear. It says that asylum seekers should not be detained.

“The policy of detainment is traumatic, inhumane and costly.”

Residents raised concerns over the lack of awareness about the plans.

Campaign to Close Campsfield member Gill Baden said she had been talking to schools in the area about speaking to pupils on the issue, including sixth formers.

She said: “These people will be voting next year. It’s important that they have a sound knowledge of what’s going on.”

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon at the General Election, said: “I think it’s shameful as a country that we treat people that have come here in vulnerable situations in this way. We still have a chance to stop it coming at all.

“I think it is incredibly important that everyone here is standing up across parties saying that we don’t want this.”

Visitors also heard former detainee Hussan Seguya speak of his journey from Uganda and time within Campsfield House.

The proposals include a new kitchen and dining room, as well as space for educational, faith and health services. It would be built in a field west of existing buildings within the security fence.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Immigration removal centres play an important role in our work to remove people who have no right to remain in the UK and it is right that we have the adequate facilities in place.

“A final decision is yet to be taken about the future of Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre.”

 

 

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