Home Office withdraws Campsfield expansion plan

Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre in Kidlington will not be expanded, the Home Office revealed today, after months of protest and an independent review.

Campaigners had feared that the centre, currently able to hold 216 detainees, would be doubled in size.

However, in a letter sent to Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, James Brokenshire MP said,”The Home Secretary has asked officials to initiate a detailed piece of work on future requirements, to take account of recent and potential future legislative changes.

“In light of this, the Home Secretary has decided to withdraw the planning application for the proposed expansion of Campsfield House.”

Commenting on the expansion, Blackwood declared, “Finally, common sense prevails. I am delighted that the Home Secretary is withdrawing the planning application.

“These plans would have made Campsfield one of the largest detention centres in Europe and it was clear to me that the case set out by the Home Office did not justify building on Green Belt land.

“And of course there were serious problems with the design of the building and how it would work in practice.”

The news comes three weeks after Cherwell District Council postponed a decision on  the expansion, after a letter written on behalf of campaigners raised legal issues concerning insufficient consideration of evidence.  

The letter was written by a team of solicitors on behalf of the Stop Campsfield Expansion group.

Bill MacKeith, spokesperson for the Campaign to Close Campsfiel, declared, “This is a great victory. But the new government in May must implement the recommendations of the parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention: a 28-day time limit to detention and full judicial oversight of individual decisions to detain.

“This would be a further step forward and entail some closures of detention centres. Above all, 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. Close Campsfield. Close all immigration detention centres.”

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In November, a letter from Oxford academics arguing against the expansion was sent to the Prime Minister. In response, the Home Office insisted that a larger Campsfield “would provide modern accommodation and facilities for detainees”, and that “detention and removal are essential and effective parts of immigration control.”

The government’s current policy on Immigration Detention has been heavily scrutinised in the run up to the election after Channel 4’s recent investigation into the abuse of detainees at Yarl’s Wood IRC, while Cherwell also uncovered claims of poor living conditions and self-harm by Campsfield detainees.