Policy failings blamed for Campsfield escape

Govt urged to review policy
Govt urged to review policy

The government has been urged to review its policy of housing failed asylum seekers with foreign prisoners in the wake of the latest immigration mishap.

Some 26 asylum seekers escaped from Campsfield House Immigration Detention Centre near Oxford on Saturday after starting a fire to distract staff.

Fourteen of the inmates are still on the run and the government confirmed all the missing inmates have criminal convictions, although stressed none are for serious crimes.

A Home Office spokeswoman said all had served their sentence and were awaiting deportation.


She confirmed: "All of the individuals are foreign national prisoners and we will be working with the police to recapture these individuals, concentrating on the most serious first."

Opposition politicians have responded to the escape by calling on the government to review its system of detaining foreign prisoners alongside failed asylum seekers.

Shadow immigration minister Damien Green said: "Until the government gets a grip on the prison overcrowding crisis, the problems will continue to spill over and cause dangerous tensions in immigration detention centres."

The Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, whose constituency covers the Kidlington detention centre, said the escape was the second major incident since foreign national ex-prisoners were mixed with immigration detainees, and also since management of the centre was transferred to the American company GEO.

Mr Harris said it was not surprising "seemingly indefinite" detention without charge leads to frustration, misery and unrest.

He called on the government to set out how it plans to reform the system.

Mr Harris continued: "The Home Office report into the fire and disturbance at Campsfield House in March 2007 was only published last week and it will have been too early to implement all its recommendations.

"But it had strong things to say about the way the centre is managed - with low staff morale, high staff turnover, and criticisms of the way the centre was run."

Iman Sajid from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants agreed there was a need to change way immigrants are treated.

He said: "The problem we have is these people feel they are treated like criminals when their crimes are simply fleeing their own country for whatever reason.

"The vast majority are no risk to the general public. In fact many feel instead of being under lock and key they should be allowed to contribute to society."

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