Oxford MP expresses opposition towards Campsfield House expansion

A local Oxford MP has voiced support for OUSU’s recent statement on Campsfield House, in which the Executive Body expressed opposition to the immigration detention centre’s proposed expansion.

Responding to last week’s OUSU statement, Nicola Blackwood, Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, told The Oxford Student: “I am fundamentally opposed to this proposal, as I have told both the Immigration Minister and Home Secretary.”

Blackwood went on to say: “Increasing Campsfield House to 566 beds more than doubles the size of the detention centre. Like many local people I believe we should be focusing on finding alternatives to detention and improving the speed of decision making within the asylum system, rather than simply increasing our detention estate.”

Blackwood also voiced her “specific concerns about the design of the plans and traffic implications”, stating: “I have formally objected to the planning application for this expansion and I am petitioning the Home Secretary to withdraw the plans immediately.”

OUSU’s Executive statement, released last week, said: “Campsfield House should not be expanded: it should be closed down. Detainees at Campsfield report frequent abuse – just last month, the detainees themselves staged a protest against the violent treatment of one of their number – and are systematically denied their basic rights.”

The statement goes on to write: “Migrants are not criminals. Many of the detainees in Campsfield faced persecution in their countries of origin and came to Britain needing our help.”

Sally Copley, the Labour candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon for this May’s election, stressed the “strong humanitarian reasons” for rejecting Campsfield’s proposed expansion.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail last year, Copley stated: “It’s clearly wrong to detain at all people who are not criminals but instead are fleeing conflict, let alone indefinitely.”

She continued: “The Home Office have not made a satisfactory case for why they want to extend Campsfield House, and it’s a shame the District Council are only allowed to consider this on planning grounds, as there are strong humanitarian reasons for rejecting it.”

Commenting on last week’s statement, OUSU President Louis Trup told The OxStu: “OUSU has historically had strong links with the campaign to close Campsfield, primarily through the BME and Anti-Racism Officer. I am glad that this link is continuing with Nikhil (the current BME and Anti-Racism Officer) and the current executive.”

Campsfield’s proposed expansion has also faced criticism from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who stated last week: “The Home Office needs to improve the speed and accuracy of immigration and asylum decisions. This will reduce demand, help save money, and mean we can eventually close centres such as Campsfield House.”

Campsfield has provoked considerable student activism in recent years, with criticism focusing on the detention centre’s treatment of detainees

In December 2014, around 30 students organised a demonstration outside Campsfield, to protest an alleged assault against a detainee by Mitie-organised security staff Earlier in Michaelmas 2014, 61 senior Oxford academics signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging the closure of the centre, and last year, student group Oxford Migrant Society arranged a demonstration to mark Campsfield’s 20th anniversary.

Image: ITV