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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Anger over asylum centre U-turn
The Asylum centre remains open
The 'outdated' Campsfield House asylum centre is to be expanded
Campaigners have reacted angrily to a government U-turn over the closure of an old immigration detention centre which is now to be expanded and modernised.

Campsfield House, near Kidlington in north Oxfordshire, was branded "outdated" by Home Secretary David Blunkett in February 2002.

But now the removal centre is to be revamped to make room for an extra 106 male detainees, taking its capacity to 290, if Cherwell District Council planners approve.

Riots, fires and hungers strikes have all broken out at the site since it opened in the mid-1990s.

There are currently 180 asylum seekers waiting to be deported from there.

Immigration removal centres are a key part of our ability to remove from the country those who have no right to be here and ensure an effective end-to-end asylum process.
Home Office Minister, Beverley Hughes

Residents have described the move, announced by the Home Office on Wednesday, as "appalling".

A Home Office spokesman said the blaze at Yarl's Wood centre near Bedford in 2002, had been a factor in the decision to keep the centre open.

Lack of consultation

But the leader of Cherwell District Council, George Reynolds, angered by the "lack of consultation", said the U-turn showed government policy is in "total disarray".

Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes said: "Immigration removal centres are a key part of our ability to remove from the country those who have no right to be here and ensure an effective end-to-end asylum process.

"We are expanding the number of spaces in the removals estate, and are looking at a number of options to do so as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible."

She added: "As part of this we have decided to retain Campsfield House and to maximise the potential of the site by expanding the centre."

The regime at Campsfield, run by security firm Group 4, has been described as a "complete and utter shambles" by the pressure group, Asylum Rights Campaign.

In September 2001, Mr Blunkett met about 90 people held at the centre who had been on hunger strike following a High Court ruling which decreed four Kurdish asylum seekers at a similar centre in Cambridgeshire were being held unlawfully.

At the time, Mr Blunkett said he was "deeply disturbed" by the ruling.




SEE ALSO:
'Outdated' asylum centre to close
07 Feb 02  |  England
Legal challenge to asylum plans
07 Oct 03  |  Oxfordshire



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