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 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 19:14 GMT
Secure centre plan leaked
Oakington centre
The plans for Oakington have been leaked to the BBC
Leaked plans for a secure centre in Cambridgeshire for asylum seekers has sparked concerns about security.

Government plans to create the special unit inside the existing reception Oakington centre have been leaked to the BBC.

Opponents say the the centre is likely to suffer the kind of violence seen at Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire last year.

Yarl's Wood detention centre was destroyed by fire after a riot involving detainees awaiting deportation.

"Oakington is by law a removal centre in its own right - we can't rule out using the land and the buildings to its fullest capacity

Home Office spokesman

Now Oakington Immigration Reception centre may be used to house those awaiting deportation.

Since 1999, Oakington has been a relatively low-key operation accommodating refugees awaiting the outcome of asylum applications.

When it opened in 1999 ministers were quick to reasure local people that security at the centre would not be an issue.

The BBC has been told the plan involves building a secure facility accommodating 150 people.

A Home Office spokesman told BBC Look East home affairs correspondent Sally Chidzoy: "I can't confirm that we'll be building any new buildings or converting any existing buildings on the land.

Andrew Lansley
MP Andrew Lansley

The Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire Andrew Lansley says he deeply concerned about the security implications for Oakington.

"We always understood it was for taking an inital decision from which people would be moved on including those who were for removal to removal centre.

"If Oakington were to be changed to a removal centre, then the security implications would change considerably.

"If those who are there think that by escaping from Oakington they can avoid being removed from the country they have an incentive to do so - which is not the basis on which people have been detainted at Oakington previously."

People living near the centre have joined the MP in demanding more details from the Home Office.

Retired Nato staff officer Charles Felger and his wife Sue, who live a couple of hundred yards from the centre, are among those deeply concerned about the plan.

"How securely are they going to be kept and by whom?" asked Mr Felger.

"Is there going to be an adequate guard force, properly trained, armed is necessary, with the support of local police?"


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03 Apr 02 | England
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