THE HOME OFFICE HAS ANNOUNCED plans to reopen the Campsfield House immigration detention centre in Kidlington, north of Oxford, in 2023 as a new immigration removal centre.
While the government calls this part of the, “fair but firm immigration system,” Quaker asylum experts say that detaining asylum seekers is expensive, ineffective and criminalises people who do not arrive through formal resettlement schemes.
Rooted in the conviction that there is that of God in every person, Quakers across Britain work to protect and welcome people seeking sanctuary. They point to the fact that well over 70 per cent of asylum claims are upheld, with even more being upheld on appeal, confirming that most asylum seekers are ‘genuine’, by the government’s own definition.
Campsfield House was closed in 2018 after a long campaign by Quakers and others and following riots, escapes, hunger strikes and a teenage suicide The new plans have been condemned by Oxford City Council and Layla Moran MP, who has started a petition against it.
Bridget Walker of the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network and member of Oxford Against Immigration Detention, formerly the Close Campsfield Campaign, said the group were opposed to all immigration detention. “The Close Campsfield Campaign was a long haul and now we are in it again”, she said.
Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration said the new centre would ensure there was enough detention capacity to “safely accommodate individuals ahead of removal.” But Quakers point out that the government’s own Shaw Review has labelled conditions in detention centres unsafe, with thousands of vulnerable people detained for prolonged periods.
The decision to reopen Campsfield comes hot on the heels of Home Office attempts to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda where they would become subject to Rwandan immigration rules.
The first flight was grounded after a last-minute ruling from the European Court of Human Rights, but the Home Office is planning a second flight within weeks, according to newspaper reports.
Fred Ashmore, a Quaker who has witnessed the damaging effects of immigration detention, explained that even vulnerable and mentally ill asylum seekers are locked up indefinitely in buildings similar to a Class B prison, surrounded by 5 metre high fencing.
He said: “Immigration controls and management are not completely unreasonable ideas. No one would dismiss the possibility that someone coming to this country might have adverse intent. But the degree to which our administration shows suspicion, mistrust and stereotyping appears beyond reasonable. Everything about the regime shrieks hostility.”
* Source: Quakers in Britain