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Large scale expansion of Britain's detention estate
The UK Border Agency today announced plans for up to 60 per cent more immigration removal centre places.
The extra spaces, which will total between 1,300 and 1,500, will help the new Agency lift the number of removals of illegal immigrants up from its current performance of one removal every eight minutes.
The Home Office announced it will take forward planning applications at two possible sites - at Bicester in Oxfordshire and at Yarls Wood in Bedfordshire.
The new centre could be up and running within two years, and will come on top of a new centre at Brook House, near Gatwick Airport, which will add more than 420 beds when it opens next year, new wings at Harmondsworth Removal Centre, near Heathrow Airport, which will add a further 370 beds, and new spaces at both Dover and Oakington, which will add 100 spaces between them.
Plans for the centres at Bicester and Yarls Wood will be presented to local councils in the coming months, with a decision on which site is pursued dependant on the planning process.
Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne plans to visit local communities to explain plans personally over the next few months.
By seeking planning permission for both sites the Home Office is laying the groundwork for further expansion of the detention estate in the future, with the potential for a second new removal centre adding room for hundreds more detainees in the future.
Mr Byrne said:
"We now remove an immigration offender every eight minutes - but my target is to remove more, and remove them faster.
"We have increased illegal working operations by 40 per cent and last year we deported 80 per cent more foreign criminals. Even though asylum claims are at a 14-year low, we are removing more failed asylum seekers each year. That means we need more detention space.
"Although stronger border security demands these controls, I know local communities will have concerns. My commitment is to listen to these personally."
Expanding the detention estate is a crucial part of the UK Border Agency's (UKBA) plans to increase the removal of illegal immigrants, allowing the fast removal of those who come to Britain and break the rules.
Last year the UKBA removed a record 4,200 foreign national prisoners, altogether deporting 63,140 illegal migrants from the UK - the equivalent of one every eight minutes.
In 2007 the Agency also exceeded its target for deciding cases, with more than 40 per cent of asylum claims dealt with from beginning to end in less than six months.
The fast track asylum process - with asylum seekers having their cases dealt with end to end whilst being housed in a removal centre - has handled more than 5,000 cases since 2005. The new centre will allow even more fast track cases to be heard.
Mr Byrne added:
"We are currently undertaking the biggest shake-up of our immigration system for 40 years. Alongside the expansion of our detention estate, we are making it harder than ever for people to cross into the UK illegally.
"Tighter borders are already illustrated by the fingerprinting of every visa applicant wishing to travel to the UK, while ID cards for foreign nationals will lock people to one identity. We are also cracking down on illegal working with more enforcement raids than ever before."
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The UK Border Agency Business Plan, which gives more information on how we are delivering an immigration system fit for the 21st Century, is available at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/reports/
2. The main categories of people detained in immigration removal
* ex-foreign national prisoners;
* failed asylum seekers; and
* immigration offenders (visa over-stayers, illegal entrants to the UK).
3. Current grid of detention spaces across the estate:
Centre Capacity Campsfield, Oxford 215 Dover 316 Dungavel, Prestwick 188 (male, female & family) Harmondsworth, Heathrow 259 Haslar, Portsmouth 160 Lindholme, S Yorkshire 112 Oakington, Cambridge 352 Tinsley House, Gatwick 146 (male, female & family) Yarl's Wood, Bedford 405 (female & family) Colnbrook, Heathrow 313 (plus 40 Short Term Holding Facility) Subtotal 2,506 Brook House, Gatwick (due to open 426 (male & female) early 2009) Two new wings at Harmondsworth. 370 (male) Heathrow (due to open early 2010) Yarls Wood (could open 2010) 400 (male) Bicester (could open 2012) 800 (male) TOTAL 4,502