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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 14:03 GMT
Use of asylum centre defended
Oakington centre
The centre is operating at one eighth capacity
The Home Office has defended the use of an immigration reception centre with capacity for 250 asylum seekers is housing 32 people.

The specially-built centre is at Oakington, Cambridgeshire.

On Thursday, Home Office minister John Denham said it was only one eighth full because of new measures to restrict the ability of people from the European Union to claim asylum in Britain.

Reports in a tabloid newspaper estimated the cost for each person currently staying there was 9,000 a week.

Clearly we need to make sure we make full use of the capacity that we've got

Home Office minister John Denham

Mr Denham told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Recently, we brought in new measures to restrict the ability of people from European Union countries and future members of the European Union to claim asylum here.

"We did that because we wanted to cut down the number of asylum applications from those sources.

"That has happened.

"The short-term impact of that has been to reduce the number of people going to Oakington.

'Unjustified claims'

"Now, clearly we need to make sure we make full use of the capacity that we've got.

"But it does show that measures that we took really just weeks ago to cut down one of the sources of unjustified asylum claims, has actually had a direct impact.

"Our job now is to move on from that and make sure (we make) the best use we can of our facilities.

"If it had been the other way round and we had overestimated the impact of our new measures, we would have been criticised for the other direction."

Opponents say 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.


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08 Jan 03 | England
07 Jan 03 | England
03 Apr 02 | England
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