Students and campaigners have had mixed reactions to the delay in the decision on whether or not to expand Campsfield House immigration detention centre.
Cherwell district council voted on 19th February to defer the decision on expanding the site near Kidlington after receiving a legal letter from solicitors representing the Stop Campsfield Expansion group.
Bill MacKeith, of the Campaign to Close Campsfield, reacted to the news in a statement: “This backs up what we’ve been saying from the beginning, that Councillors must consider all the evidence and make up their own minds whether there is a need to detain more migrants.
“Since the Home Office’s own figures confirm that they are releasing more and more detainees without taking further action against them, people who they should never have locked up in the first place, we are confident Councillors will eventually decide that there is no “Need”.”
The current plans being debated would see the expansion of the site, which has been an immigration detention centre since 1993, more than doubling its capacity. Campsfield can currently house around 270 detanees, but if proposed plans go ahead, this will jump to 566.
Amelia Cooper, a first year History and Politics student at St Peter’s College said: “Cherwell District Council’s deferral of the decision to expand Campsfield gives me tentative hope. However, I find it troubling that the principal arguments from Kidlington Parish Council against expansion is that it will not provide ‘high value employment’ or offer ‘successful transition between town and country environments’.
Campsfield is a scourge on national human rights policy, forming part of the UK’s detention estate; it is inhumane, inefficient, and I hope that during this time, sufficient evidence – not to mention basic considerations for human welfare and rights – will demonstrate that allowing the expansion would be a grave mistake”.
The plans have attracted criticism from campaigners and politicians. Speaking to The Oxford Student in January, Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “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.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Immigration removal centres play an important role in our work to remove people who have no right to remain in the UK, and it is right that we have the adequate facilities in place.
“A final decision is yet to be taken about the future of Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre.”
Cherwell District Council planning committee will next meet on March 19th.