Layla Moran, LibDem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, writes:

Oxford Mail:

Layla Moran

It is not a crime to want a life free from persecution. Yet that is the message we send to those who seek asylum by maintaining detention centres in this country.

This weekend saw an unveiling of plans by the Home Office to more than double the capacity at the privately run Campsfield House Detention Centre in Kidlington.

The proposals, as part of a pre-consultation, included erecting new accommodation and activities blocks and would more than double the number of beds from 216 to 498.

I am completely against these proposals. I believe it is not just wrong for our area, but it is also wrong for the country.

We are all familiar with the heartbreaking stories that emanate from the austere barbed wire protected buildings.

Just last year there was a fire that injured two people. Before that you might remember the cases of escape attempts, hunger strikes and rooftop protests. And in 2011 you may remember the heartbreaking case of yet another suicide.

Self harm, suicidal threats and psychological problems are common. These are vulnerable people who deserve to be treated with compassion.

And crucially, around half of the people there have not committed any crime.

We should be aiming to close the centre, not expand it.

There are 12 immigration removal centres in the UK, one of the largest ‘estates’ in Europe. The single most common category of people detained are asylum seekers.

The biggest centre is called Harmonsworth near Heathrow and has a bed capacity of 615. Increasing Campsfield to 498 would leapfrog it from eight to second largest.

Does our community really want to be responsible for saying yes to the creating the second largest centre in our land?

I do not believe so.

Since opening 20 years ago Campsfield has housed more than 25,000 people.

Some of these were children and one of the achievements I am most proud of is that, thanks to Liberal Democrats in government, child detention is now illegal.

But there remain many other injustices. The worst of which is indefinite detention, where people are held without any time frame for release.

They came to this country seeking a better life, and inefficiencies in the system often means they have to wait months or even years before their cases can be resolved.

At Campsfield there are cases of detainees staying over 18 months or more.

Last March the Liberal Democrats took another bold step and we voted to end indefinite detention altogether, something I hope to help achieve as your MP if elected next year.

And if the moral grounds for not expanding weren’t enough, in the UK the number of people being deported in the UK is in fact declining.

Expanding Campsfield now makes no sense in this climate. Given that we are deporting fewer people we need to be aiming to detain fewer too.

We expect the plans will be submitted formally in the near future.

When they do, you can expect myself and Lib Dems will do everything we can to stop them.