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Controversial Campsfield immigration centre to reopen

The Home Office has awarded a £70 million contract to a construction company to reopen an immigrant detention centre at Campsfield in Kidlington, near Oxford. Building Southern, the company involved, announced their agreement with the Home Office on Friday. Since being proposed by the government in 2022, the reopening of the site has faced opposition from local groups including students at Oxford University.

The immigration centre previously on the Campsfield site was closed in 2018 after 25 years, as it faced issues including riots, escapes and complaints about living conditions, 41% of detainees said they felt “unsafe”. Most people were detained there for less than two months, but the longest stay was of almost a year and a half. 

Planning applications were submitted to the Council in January for a new processing site, which could house up to 400 male immigrants plus 400 staff. The plan was withdrawn in March after council opposition. 

The Keep Campsfield Closed campaign was started by local residents in 2022 to oppose the reopening of the detainment centre. In June 2023, Oxford students held a protest outside the Radcliffe Camera to register their opposition to the centre’s reopening, and over 140 students and staff signed a letter in support of the Keep Campsfield Closed movement. 

MP for Oxford West and Abingdon Layla Moran argued that “locking people up for months on end – without giving them any idea how long they’ll be detained – is inhumane and unnecessary.”

Oxford City Council’s statement, from former Council Leader Susan Brown, also opposed the project: “[It] further demonises refugees and negatively impacts communities across our city. It creates an atmosphere of fear, mistrust, and further divides people and communities.” The newly elected City Council has yet to comment on the development contract.

The then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, Tom Pursglove, said that reopening the centre was a key part of Home Office’s plan to tackle high immigration levels and “will help ensure there is sufficient detention capacity to safely accommodate individuals ahead of removal.”

He argued: “Those who have abused the immigration system, including foreign national criminals who have devastated the lives of their victims, should be in no doubt of our determination to remove them.”

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