In a written answer to Parliament, given on Friday 10 June by Tony McNulty, the Immigration Minister, stated that the government is abandoning its plans for a network of accommodation centres.
It is as yet unclear whether the Home Office still intends to push ahead with the planned centre for Bicester, but this announcement will clearly have an impact on the local situation and may mean that the plans are abandoned at the eleventh hour.
This reversal of government policy will mean that the Bicester centre can no longer be presented as a 'trial' for a planned national network of similar centres but will be a one off experiment with people's lives. Its uniqueness will have significant economic implications as it will now be a matter of investing in a hugely expensive prototype that is never intended to be replicated. It will no longer have any claim to be part of a national integrated approach to processing the claims of asylum seekers, and this will certainly increase local resentment by those who are unsympathetic to the plight of asylum seekers - they will feel furious that they are to be uniquely 'dumped on'. As for BRS and all the other refugee support organisations who are opposing the Bicester centre on purely humanitarian grounds, we will be empowered by the knowledge that the Home Office is so clearly in retreat and has at last admitted that this policy was mistaken and unworkable. Maybe all we need now is one last big push for the Bicester plans to fall too.
If you would like to read the Hansard report yourself, the link is http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm/cmhansrd.htm
Meanwhile, BRS will continue to work on our submission for the forthcoming public inquiry as if the centre is to go ahead, with our main message being that the government has applied to build an accommodation centre but has now submitted detailed plans for a detention centre or prison, with multiple security barriers such as barbed wire fences, prison-style perimeter lighting and a gatehouse far inside the centre, a completely secure area for direct removals of failed asylum seekers, the notorious GSL to run the centre and no means of transport for the asylum seekers and therefore no realistic hope of integration with local people. You can read the full details of our objections on our Website http://www.bicesterrefugeesupport.org.uk
Report in the Times
Report in the Guardian
(written by Kathleen Graco)