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1994: Asylum seekers flee detention centre
Six asylum seekers have escaped from an immigration centre in Oxfordshire following a rooftop protest overnight.

Three other detainees from the Campsfield centre in Kidlington were taken to hospital with ankle injuries after trying to escape.

An investigation is underway, although the incident is believed to be connected to the removal of an Algerian detainee who was due to be deported after being refused asylum in Britain.

According to his legal advisers he was removed with undue haste.

Adviser Sue Conlan said: "It has happened time and time again and people are just scared and also frustrated and fed up that they are being treated in a way that just means they are less than human. They are being treated like animals".

Campsfield House, run by private security firm Group 4, was opened six months ago, holding about 200 people.

The centre detains those who are waiting for their asylum applications to be processed as well as those waiting for deportation.

Although the disturbances overnight were short-lived, questions are being raised about the government's policy of locking up people who have committed no crime.

It is also under fire over attempts to speed up the asylum application process in the face of increasing numbers of people seeking refuge in the UK.

Claude Moraes, of the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants, accused the government of abusing Immigration Act powers.

He said: "We have hundreds of people now, either in prisons, detention centres or police cells who are there without any reason, any charge or conviction".

The Home Office responded that only 1.5% of the 47,000 people currently seeking asylum were detained.

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Campsfield House, Oxfordshire
Campsfield House opened six months ago


In Context
There had been riots, fires and hunger strikes had all broken out at the centre since it opened in the mid-90s.

Amnesty International had claimed the facility was a waste of taxpayers' money, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees investigated the treatment of a number of detainees.

Campsfield House continued to face protest and controversy until Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett announced plans to close the centre in February 2002. Mr Blunkett declared the detention centre was "outdated" and promised to review laws governing asylum seekers in the UK.

But in October 2003 the government made reversed its decision following a blaze at Yarl's Wood centre near Bedford in 2002. It decided to to increase capacity at the Campsfield centre from 184 to 290, subject to planning permission.

Cherwell District Council rejected planning permission in 2004 after fierce opposition from local residents but the Home Office can override the decision.

The centre is operated by Global Solutions Limited under guidelines issued by the Home Office.

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