Campsfield expansion folds

The Home Secretary has withdrawn an application to expand the capacity of Campsfield House immigration detention centre prior to a decision scheduled for 19th March.

If passed, this proposal would have more than doubled the number of beds at the Kidlington detention facility.

Campsfield is used to hold immigrants before their removal from the UK, and has been protested by human rights campaigners since the mid 1990s.

Bill Mackeith, a representative of Campaign to Close Campsfield, said: “This is a chance to point to the need for the end of the barbaric imprisonment every year of 30,000 innocent people under 1971 Immigration Act powers”.

The Home Office’s proposal would expanded the capacity of the centre from 260 to 610 beds, and was withdrawn pending an independent review of detainment conditions by the Home Office scheduled for later this year.

It had already been delayed by Cherwell District Council until mid-March.

A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC: “Detaining and removing people with no right to be in the country, with dignity and respect, is an essential part of effective immigration controls.

“An independent review of detainees’ welfare by the former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw, commissioned by the home secretary last month, will report back later this year.”

In particular, critics of the centre have accused the centre of holding inmates for extended periods without charge.

Nikhil Venkatesh, the OUSU BME Students’ Officer, said: “I am delighted that Campsfield House will not now be expanded. However, the campaign against inhumane treatment of migrants must go on. OUSU has a long-standing policy of opposing not only the expansion but also the existence of Campsfield, and the pursuit of a fairer immigration system.”

The expansion of Campsfield had also come under criticism because it would have required building into Oxford’s green belt area. Solicitors for the Campaign to Close Campsfield had also filed a letter with the Cherwell District Council stating that the Home Office had not justified the plans with the special conditions required for building in the green belt.

Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, added: “Finally, common sense prevails. It was clear to me that the case set out by the Home Office did not justify building on green belt land”.

Human rights campaigners have been driven to protest by past events at Campsfield, including a hunger strike in 2010 involving over 100 detainees, and the suicide of an inmate in 2005.

A wider review of the capacity and location of the immigration centre will be carried out by the Home Secretary in the future.