A detainee has been charged with arson, following a fire at the Campsfield Detention Centre that left two men in hospital.The centre in Kidlington, 15 minutes’ drive north of Oxford, has space for 216 male detainees.
The long-term detention centre accommodates illegal immigrants, pending their case resolutions and subsequent removal from the United Kingdom.Last Friday, Farid Pardiaz, one of the residents at the centre, was charged with one count of arson with intent or being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
The fire, which occurred at 9pm on October 18th, required more than 60 firefighters and ten fire engines from Kidlington, Woodstock, Eynsham, Rewley Road, Slade, Witney and Bicester to safely put it out. A large hole in the roof of one of the detention blocks exposed blackened rafters.
Dave Etheridge, Chief Fire Officer for Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service, said that there had been “extensive damage to the roof area and fire and smoke damage to the second floor of the two-storey building.”
One detainee told The Guardian that the block had “burned from the roof down” and that flames reached higher than the second floor. Another told the paper that they were evacuated to a yard inside the prison near the blaze, where the evacuees feared being burnt alive.
Damage to the building has led to more than 100 detainees were moved to other centres around the UK. This follows a history of intentionally lit fires at detention centres, notably Yarl’s Wood and Harmondsworth.
Some claim that the lack of sprinklers in the building contributed to the damage.
After the fire, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), renewed its call for sprinklers to be fitted in high-risk buildings.
Campsfield House did not have sprinklers fitted despite an earlier incident involving the same accommodation block, after which Oxfordshire Fire Rescue Service had issued a strong recommendation for their installation.
The centre is privately run by Management Incentive Through Investment Equity (MITIE) and is part of a larger site that is employed for training prison and police officers.
According to the Campaign against Campsfield, between January and June this year 52 detainees attempted suicide and 251 self-harmed across the whole estate.
The complex was once a youth detention centre, but reopened for immigration purposes in November 1993.
Mr Pardiaz, 24, appeared at Banbury Magistrates’ Court on Friday last week.