The government is creating more ‘spaces’ at removal centres as part of its drive to deport more asylum seekers.
In March 2009, giving oral evidence to a Commons Public Accounts Committee, Lin Homer, Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), said that a ‘higher proportion’ of deportations occurred of those in detention centres rather than those not detained. Sir David Normington (permanent secretary to the Home Office) added that in 2008 ‘just short of 12,000’ failed asylum seekers were removed but, he went on, ‘that is not yet good enough’. Now many new builds are in the offing.
This week, Bedford Borough Council granted planning permission to the UKBA to build an extension, to category B prison standards, of Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre (IRC) in Bedford to house 500 men. The planning application states that the new centre will essentially rebuild the half that was destroyed in a fire in February 2002. Yarl’s Wood is currently run by Serco Home Affairs.
Next week, on 18 March 2009, a new immigration removal centre, Brook House, near Gatwick airport will open, close to Tinsley House IRC (which holds 166 people – including space for five women and four families). According to a government press release, Brook House will hold 426 men and women ‘found to be not playing by the rules’. Brook House has been developed by the Airport Property Partnership (APP) on behalf of the Home Office and is situated within the boundary fence of Gatwick airport. The centre will be run by Global Solutions Ltd (GSL) which also runs the nearby Tinsley House and Oakington IRC in Cambridge as well as three prisons – Altcourse (Fazakerley, near Liverpool), Rye Hill (Warwickshire) and Wolds (East Yorkshire). Also read ‘New immigration prison to open at Gatwick this spring’.
Increasing and increased capacity
Giving evidence to the recent Commons Public Accounts Committee, Sir David Normington also said that 1,400 more detention spaces were needed to bring the number up to 4,000 since more foreign national prisoners were occupying spaces at removal centres. The committee was also told that 330 places would become available in Harmondsworth next year. It was also revealed that the government is awaiting planning permission for a new centre in Bicester (previously abandoned in 2005) which would be ready in 2012. The proposed centre in Bicester is also to be built to category B prison standards, holding 800 men in seven wings. (The government spent £28 million on proposals, now failed, for an accommodation centre for 750 people, with £7.9 million going in compensation to GSL, which had signed a £60 million contract to build the centre.) A planning decision which was due today on the proposed centre by Cherwell District Council is likely to be delayed until April.
Other new detention spaces have recently become available or are currently being built:
- In December 2008, the UKBA opened a refurbished short-term holding facility in Manchester airport to hold thirty-two people prior to deportation.
- In May 2008, Liam Byrne announced an extra 100 spaces at Dover IRC and Oakington by the end of the 2008.
- Two wings at Harmondsworth are to be demolished and two secure wings rebuilt which are to open by the end of 2010. Harmondsworth currently holds 259 people and is run by Kalyx.
Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence (4 March 2009): Sir David Normington and Lin Homer
Corporate Watch: ‘New immigration prison to open at Gatwick this spring’