A MAJOR police operation is under way in Kidlington after 26 people escaped from the Campsfield House detention centre.

GEO, who run the centre off Langford Lane, Kidlington, on behalf of the Border and Immigration Agency, contacted Thames Valley Police shortly before 11pm last night after a fire was started and the detainees escaped.

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said this afternoon: "A police operation to locate 14 detainees who escaped from the Campsfield immigration detention centre is continuing today.

"The men were part of a group of 26 who broke out of the centre shortly before 11pm yesterday after an incident in which a fire was started in part of the building."

Supt Robin Rickard, commanding the police response, said: "Having located 12 of the escaped detainees, we are working with the Borders and Immigration Agency and GEO, who run the centre on their behalf, to establish the identities of those who are still missing and get them back into custody as soon as possible.

"We have a substantial number of resources dedicated to the task and are doing all we can to locate the detainees as quickly as possible.

"I urge members of the public to contact us immediately should they see anyone they believe could be one of those involved."