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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 21:30 GMT
Protest at detention centre
Barbed Wire Britain
Barbed Wire Britain were among the demonstrators
Civil liberties groups demonstrated outside the high security Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre in north Bedfordshire on Monday.

The protest was held on the day the centre became operational.

Asylum seekers will be phased into the Yarl's Wood centre over the next week.

It will eventually hold up to 900 people.

'Regrettably necessary'

On Monday, campaigners from groups such as Barbed Wire Britain and Stop Arbitrary Detention at Yarl's Wood held a protest against the government's policy of holding asylum seekers in what they say is effectively custody.

But a spokeswoman from the Home Office said that it was "regrettably necessary" to detain some people.

She added: "The bulk of the people who will be detained will be high-level absconders.

"It is a regrettable but necessary measure.

"Many will be people who have reached the end of the asylum process and have been refused.

"It may also be those who initially come into the country and have false documents so it will be necessary to establish their identity."

She added: "Initially we are hoping that these people will be detained for the shortest period possible."

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