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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
Yarl's Wood rebuild 'in doubt'
Fire fighters mount rescue
The blaze destroyed half the centre
Residents living near Yarl's Wood detention centre have been told there are no "medium or long term" plans to rebuild the centre burnt down in a riot.

The undamaged half of the Bedfordshire complex is due to reopen in September with an intake of 60 female detainees.

It is expected to provide accommodation for about 400 single female and family groups by 2005.

Local resident Margaret Turner, chairwoman of Yarl's Wood Liaison Committee, said that a UK Immigration Service official told a recent meeting that at present there are "no medium or long term plans to rebuild" the damaged part of the centre.

However, a spokesman for the Home Office said that at present "no decision has yet been taken" on whether to rebuild the centre.

The government is also looking forward to the completion of the independent report into the events at Yarl's Wood being conducted by Stephen Shaw, prisons and probation ombudsman.

Yarl's Wood fire
Flames light the night's sky as the centre burns
Mrs Turner said people were also concerned that the fencing around the centre.

She said video footage - released after the trial of those accused of being part of a riot at Yarl's Wood - of asylum seekers breaking down the fencing at the centre showed its inadequacy.

"We have expressed our concerns to the government," she said.

Tom Foster, a Bedford borough and Bedfordshire county councillor for the area including Yarl's Wood, said he was still unhappy with the private security firm Group 4 running the centre.

During the Yarl's Wood trial, Group 4, faced a barrage of criticism from Judge Roger Sanders, prosecutor Nigel Rumfitt QC and defence lawyers, including claims that it is a "national laughing stock" and allegations of delay, obstruction and potential contamination of evidence.

Fire damage
The multi-million pound centre lay in ruins after the fire

The company has strenuously rejected the allegations.

Mr Foster said: "That place should not open with Group 4 in charge until the government inquiry reports (on Group 4's role)."

On Friday, Nigerian Henry Momodou, 39, and Albanian Behar Limani, 27, were jailed for four years each after they were convicted of violent disorder at the centre on 14 February 2002 when the asylum centre was destroyed by fire.

Previously, two other men also involved in the incident were jailed.

A 29-year-old Algerian, Ahmed Aliaine, who was described as a "leading player" and a "one-man fighting machine", admitted violent disorder and received 18 months.

Moroccan Naseem Mosstaffa, 25, pleaded guilty to affray and was jailed for three months.

New plans for Yarl's Wood centre
19 Aug 03  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Yarl's Wood inquiry 'must be public'
17 Aug 03  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Yarl's Wood staff sue security firm
16 Aug 03  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Yarl's Wood pair jailed
15 Aug 03  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
New future for Yarl's Wood
15 Aug 03  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Centre 'exploded' in violence
15 Aug 03  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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