COUNTY groups have called to stop plans to more than double the size of an immigration removal centre.

Headington Quaker Meeting and Oxford University Amnesty International are among groups which criticised the “unjust” plans for Campsfield House.

The Home Office and the Ministry of Justice has applied to Cherwell District Council for a 290-bed extension to the 276-bed centre on Green Belt land.

Groups have said the plan will make the Langford Lane facility – which opened in 1993 – “one of the largest detention centres in Europe”.

Their joint statement said: “Our immigration detention system is unjust and inhumane, for individuals detained as well as their families, and has high financial costs for the country.

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“Not only does the UK not need to be further expanding its detention estate, but Campsfield House, which was opened over 20 years ago as a small, 200 bed centre, is an inappropriate site for major expansion.”

It said detention has “adverse, long-term impacts on people’s mental health” partly due to the uncertainty of the removal process.

The statement said: “The UK is unique in Europe for detaining people without a time limit, not due to a conviction, but simply for administrative purposes.”

It added: “Detention is extremely expensive, with millions of pounds wasted detaining people who are ultimately released.

“Rather than pump in more money, we should investigate alternatives to detention, which would be better for both migrants and the taxpayer.”

One public comment has been published on the planning application on the council’s website.

Eric and Christine Baldwin, of Willow Way, Begbroke, wrote: “As a householder living in the lane behind Campsfield house, we have had to endure various noisy riotous incidents over the 38 years of living in Begbroke.

“Any application which is likely to increase this nuisance is not welcome.”

Home Office spokesman Richard Crowe 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.”

Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East, said: “The breadth of support for this letter is further evidence of the strong opposition to the Government’s flawed plans to expand Campsfield.

“It is not too late for them to withdraw the application and reconsider their plans in the light of the views local people and the Parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention, which is due to report soon.”

In 2007, riot police were called to the centre after a fire was started when staff tried to remove a detainee who was about to be deported. Nine people needed hospital treatment.

Numerous detainees have gone on hunger strike, with more than 100 refusing to eat on one occasion in 2010. Campsfield House is for men who have been through the immigration process, are going through on appeal or are offenders awaiting removal from the UK.

The planning application said beds are needed “to address a shortfall in accommodation resulting from enhanced enforcement activity and the desire to decrease bed spaces currently utilised within prisons, which are not considered appropriate”.

It said the land has been identified by the council to be removed from the Green Belt for employment.


Asylum Welcome, The Bail Observation Project, Dr Barbara E. Harrell-Bond OBE, Campaign to Close Campsfield, City of Sanctuary, Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Oxford, Headington Quaker Meeting, Medical Justice, Network of Oxfordshire Women for Peace and Justice, Oxford and District Labour Party, Oxford and District Trades Union Council, Oxford City Amnesty International, Oxford Migrant Solidarity, Oxford Quaker Meeting, Oxford Ruskin College branch, University and College Union, Oxfordshire Green Party, Oxford South Asia Forum, Oxford University Amnesty International Oxford West and Abingdon Liberal Democrats, Refugee Resource, Sea Green Singers.

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