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Britain's biggest immigration removal centre opens

Britain's biggest immigration removal centre opens

HOME OFFICE News Release (048/2009) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 18 March 2009

The government's commitment to securing Britain's borders and removing illegal migrants was further underlined today with the opening of a new immigration removal centre by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The new 426-bed detention centre, built next to Gatwick Airport, will help ensure the UK Border Agency can continue to remove record numbers of foreign lawbreakers from the UK.

Brook House, the biggest secure unit of its kind in the country, will house male illegal migrants and foreign criminals, and increases the country's detention capacity to nearly 3,000 bed spaces.

Detention is a vital tool that helps the UK Border Agency remove those with no right to be in the country. Last year over 66,000 people were removed from the UK or left voluntarily - one every eight minutes. This includes 5,395 foreign criminals - made up of 50 killers and attempted killers, over 200 sex offenders and more than 1,500 drug dealers. The extra capacity at Brook House will therefore allow for the removal of even more foreign national prisoners, illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers.

Jacqui Smith said:

"I'm committed to removing more foreign lawbreakers faster than ever before, that's why the opening of this Immigration Removal Centre is so important.

"By expanding our detention capacity and working closely with countries to re-document foreign nationals faster, we're making it more difficult than ever to stay in the UK illegally.

"The message is clear - whether you're a visa overstayer, a foreign criminal or a failed asylum seeker, the UK Border Agency is determined to track you down and remove you from Britain."

The government is committed to clamping down on illegal migrants and controlling the UK's border. The UK Border Agency is increasing its detention estate by 60 per cent by 2012. These extra spaces will be needed as the UK Border Agency carries out record numbers of enforcement raids, cracks down on those that break the rules, and speeds up the removal process.

A new 370-bed wing will be added to Harmondsworth Removal Centre, near Heathrow Airport, by 2010.

As well as the opening of Brook House and the expansion of Harmondsworth, the Home Office has submitted two planning applications for centres at Bullingdon in Oxfordshire and Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire.

A decision on which site is pursued will depend on the planning process. By seeking planning permission for both sites the Home Office is laying the groundwork for further expansion of the detention estate, with the potential for a second new removal centre adding room for hundreds more detainees.

Detention is seen as a last resort by the government - when someone is found to have no right to be in the UK they are expected to leave voluntarily saving the taxpayer the cost of a stint in an immigration removal centre and an enforced return home.

1. The main categories of people detained in immigration removal centres are:
* ex foreign-national prisoners;
* failed asylum seekers; and
* immigration offenders (visa over-stayers, illegal entrants to the UK).

2. Brook House is built to prison standard B/C security.

3. In 2008, 66,275 individuals were removed or left voluntarily from the UK. This figure is made up of:
* enforced removals: 21,110;
* assisted voluntary returns: 4,295;
* other voluntary departures: 8,720; and
* non - asylum cases refused entry at port and returned: 32,155.

4. Detention capacity across the UK:

Centre                                           Capacity
      Campsfield, Oxford                                    216
      Dover                                                 316
      Dungavel, Prestwick           190 (male, female & family)
      Harmondsworth, Heathrow                               259
      Haslar, Portsmouth                                    160
      Lindholme, South Yorkshire                            124
      Oakington, Cambridge                                  408
      Tinsley House, Gatwick        146 (male, female & family)
      Yarl's Wood, Bedford                405 (female & family)
      Colnbrook, Heathrow                                   388
      Brook House, Gatwick                           426 (male)
      Subtotal                                            3,038
      Two new wings at                               370 (male)
      Harmondsworth. Heathrow (due to open early 2010)
      Yarls Wood (could open 2010)             Up to 500 (male)
      Planning approval obtained.
      Bullingdon (could open 2012)             Up to 800 (male)
      Awaiting planning decision. 

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