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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Security criticised at asylum centre
Breakouts at Dover 'are smaller than in Yorkshire', police say
Security at an immigration centre in Dover, where failed asylum seekers await deportation, has been criticised.

Latest figures show there have been 16 separate breakouts this year from Western Heights - 24 people escaped and only one person was recaptured.

Last month in South Yorkshire, an escape by 20 asylum seekers from Lindholme Detention Centre led to a major police search.

But when six people escaped from the Western Heights last month, Kent Police said escaping from a removals centre was not a crime.

Police 'powerless to chase'

At the time, Kent Police said people who had escaped could only be arrested if police chanced upon them as illegal immigrants.

Kent Police said on Thursday that breakouts at Dover had always been on a smaller scale than in Yorkshire and the issue was about prioritising resources.

Peter Booth, of the Independent Monitoring Board for the centre, said detainees were escaping with ease.

Twenty four people escaped from the old Napoleonic fortress last year

He said: "If they are determined enough, a person can find somewhere to go - behind a door or a building - and then jump or climb down a moat.

"It is not until they count that they find a person is missing."

Dover's Labour MP, Gwyn Prosser, has called for more transparency and security at detention and removal centres.

The Conservative leader of Dover District Council, Councillor Paul Watkins, said: "We seem to have different policing views across the country on how to deal with asylum seekers.

We are very disappointed at what is occurring.
Cllr Paul Watkins
Dover District Council leader

"The Home Office needs to get security sorted out, but frankly, asylum policy is in tatters.

"We are very disappointed at what is occurring."

Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said: "I want to ensure centres within the Immigration detention estate are running effectively.

"Absconds from any centre are unacceptable and we are particularly concerned at the number of recent absconds from Dover Immigration Removal Centre.

"Together with the Prison Service, we are investigating how these occurred, reviewing the security measures at Dover and considering ways in which security at the site can be enhanced.

"We are committed to ensuring that all removal centres are as secure as they can be and, where security weaknesses are exposed, we will put in place appropriate measures to strengthen security."

Security boost at asylum centre
21 Aug 03  |  Cambridgeshire
Ten asylum seekers still missing
30 Sep 03  |  South Yorkshire
Asylum seekers in jail break
29 Sep 03  |  England
Asylum seekers flee centre
12 Aug 03  |  Cambridgeshire


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