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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Q&A: Bicester asylum centre
Bicester
The Bicester centre will accommodate around 750 people
Protesters have lost their High Court bid to prevent the building of a centre for asylum seekers in rural Bicester.

BBC News Online takes a look at the unit the government says is a "new concept" and "without precedent".

Q: Who will be housed at Bicester?

Up to 400 single men, 50 single women and 300 family members who are seeking asylum in Britain.

They will sleep at the centre overnight, but will be free to leave during the day and evening. The centre will not detain failed applicants or those who have breached immigration rules. Detention centres for those awaiting deportation already exist in other areas of the UK.

Q: What facilities will they have?

The government wants Bicester to be self-contained.

As well as providing accommodation, there will also be community centres, shops and buildings for catering and welfare as well as creches.

A football pitch and sports building are planned as well as landscaped gardens and even a "habitat area for great-crested newts", according to the Home Office.

Bus services will run asylum applicants to local towns and a library and education services for children will be provided on site.

Q: What is the reaction of local residents to the plans?

Members of the Bicester Action Group (BAG) argue the facility will over-burden local services.

They say their town is only designed to cater for around 600 people, and with 750 people coming to the centre and having access to the town, the way of life for existing Bicester residents will change drastically.

Bicester Refugee Support (BRS), which is opposing the scheme on humanitarian grounds, says the size, location and regime of the proposed centre are inappropriate to the needs of asylum applicants.

Q: What does the government say?

The government regards the Bicester complex as a model for accommodating asylum applicants in self-contained units in out-of-town areas.

It says the proposals are "part of the trial of a new concept... without precedent in land-use terms in this country".

Crucially, it says accommodation centres aim to take the burden off local communities by providing all the services in one place as applicants await a decision on their case.

Q: Does the government plan any similar centres in Britain?

The government has already rejected six other sites as being unsuitable, but also plans a similar facility at RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire. A third smaller pilot is expected to open near a city centre to see if an urban model with fewer residents is better.


SEE ALSO:
Asylum protesters lose court bid
06 Apr 04  |  Oxfordshire
Approval for asylum centre
19 Aug 03  |  Oxfordshire


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