Campaigners have issued a warning about another private company that is seeking to profit from the detention of asylum-seeking families which was meant to have ended.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that plans had been submitted to Crawley Borough Council by the Home Office to convert a building in the area to detain asylum seekers. The plans detail a ‘Pre-Departure Accommodation facility’ for families on the site of a residential school for children with behavioural and learning difficulties in Pease Pottage, Crawley. The area has seen plans for removal centres before; in January 2010, Arora International’s planning application to convert Mercure Hotel into an immigration removal centre failed. The site where the school is situated is, according to NoBorders, owned by The Crossroads Children’s Education Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Arora Group.
The current proposals come a month and a half after the family unit at Yarl’s Wood closed and the coalition announced the end (by May 2011) of the practice of detaining children for immigration purposes. Yet, in a document obtained by London NoBorders, the proposed accommodation is described as a ‘facility [which] would only house families with children who have been referred to it by a new Independent Family Returns Panel being established by the UK Border Agency… where families would be accommodated for a maximum of 72 hours, before being taken to a departure airport. In exceptional cases they might be held for one week.’ The document, a letter from CgMs Consultants (a company which describes itself as ‘Specialist & Independent Advisors to the Property Industry’) also states that ‘up to 8 families of up to 6 persons at any one time’ will be held at the centre and that the UKBA ‘desire[s] [to] create a facility which provides a more family-friendly environment’ where ‘Families would be accommodated in self contained units, consisting of living, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom spaces. Staff, healthcare, social and welfare facilities would also be provided to meet the needs of the families during their stay at the facility, helping them to prepare for leaving the UK.’ The existing ‘2.5m palisade fence’ would remain as would electronic entrance gates The letter also claims that ‘The facility will be run on a care model rather than a secure one, supported by a third sector organisation. In short, it will look and feel very different to the UK Border Agency’s immigration removal centres.’ However, childrens would only be allowed to leave for short periods subject to a risk assessment and suitable adult provision, and there is no mention of the children’s parents being allowed to leave. And the letter also states that ‘the timescales for having the facility up and running are critical due to the closure of the previous facilities and the Governments policy timeframe. It is important that the new facility at Crawley Forest School is operational by the 11th May 2011.’
NoBorders has started a campaign against the centre and Rosie Young, of London NoBorders, commented: ‘Arora seems to be attempting to move into the immigration detention business at any price. This time they want to do it quickly and silently. If Arora thought they would get this through without anybody noticing it they have failed.’ Thomas Harburg, also of London NoBorders, added: ‘It is obvious what trick the Home Office is playing here. It does not matter what they call this facility, if you are forced to be held in a building with a fence around it, waiting to be deported, it is another immigration detention facility. All that talk about the ending of the detention of children and families was just a media stunt.’
The language of the document and the use of words such as ‘facility’, ‘care model’ and ‘family friendly environment ‘ belie the reality of the proposals, they are a continuation of the detention of families, albeit by another name.
Download a copy of the letter sent by CgMs: here (pdf file, 6mb)
London NoBorders: ‘Arora Hotels Back in Deportation Business’
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