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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 August 2007, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Mass escape from detention centre
Police arrest one of the escapees
Police arrested 12 of the detainees shortly after the mass escape
Police are looking for 14 asylum seekers who escaped from a detention centre after a fire was started there.

A total of 26 people broke out of Campsfield House, near Kidlington in Oxford, but 12 have been caught.

Officers in riot gear were brought in to deal with a disturbance at the centre on Saturday night, when a fire was lit in the building.

A helicopter, police dogs and a large number of officers are searching for the escapees.

He tried to escape over my back fence and I had to go after him and drag him back
Bill Smith

The trouble began a day after more than 150 detainees agreed to suspend a hunger strike they had been maintaining.

They complained to officials about overcrowded conditions and claimed they were being held illegally.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said that although 16 detainees were still missing, the situation was "fully under control".

Police had secured the centre, near Kidlington, to prevent others escaping.

One of the detainees was caught after he sought shelter from a local resident.

Riot police at the scene
Riot police were brought in to control the incident

Bill Smith, who lives near the camp, said: "He actually knocked on the door.

"So I opened the door and apprehended him and he was begging for assistance, he wanted help to get away.

"He then made a bolt for it and he tried to escape over my back fence and I had to go after him and drag him back and detain him."

A Home Office spokesman also said "every effort" was being made to recapture those still at large.

200 asylum seekers

He said: "The establishment itself suffered minor damage.

"Borders and Immigration Agency staff, prison service staff, police and GEO are working to ensure a speedy return to normality at Campsfield."

Campsfield was converted into an immigration detention centre in 1993 amid a storm of protest from local residents.

It is run by the American company GEO and holds up to 200 male asylum seekers at a time.

Within six months of opening, six asylum seekers escaped following a rooftop protest.

A member of the public tells how he detained an escapee

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03 Aug 07 |  Oxfordshire
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14 Mar 07 |  Oxfordshire
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02 Sep 04 |  Oxfordshire
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08 Apr 03 |  Oxfordshire

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