A district council has refused to offer a clear stance on the reopening of a much-contested migrant detention centre.

In a full Cherwell District Council meeting held on Monday, Progressive Oxfordshire Group Councillor Ian Middleton brought forward a motion calling on the council to condemn the proposed re-opening of Campsfield House detention centre and to guarantee that council support would not be given to the facility.

The motion – which was seconded by Councillor Gemma Coton – was opposed by Conservative councillors en bloc.

Miss Coton said: “We need a system that respects people’s liberty, justice, and human rights.

“As a council that cares for its community and residents we should do everything in our power to stop the cruel practice of immigration detention in our district.

“A facility like Campsfield House has no place within Cherwell.

“Instead, we should push to open safe routes that allow refugees and asylum seekers to join in our wonderful community.”

Mr Middleton added: “Re-opening Campsfield is a regressive and morally dubious move from an equally morally bankrupt government.

The people in Kidlington, Yarnton and Begbroke don’t want a facility like this in their midst or at all.

“We should not be treating desperate asylum seekers in this way. We’re better than this as a nation and I know the people I represent expect us to be better.”

Campsfield House, in Kidlington, closed in 2018 after 25 years as a migrant detention centre.

During those years it housed an estimated 30,000 refugees.

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The closure of the centre came after campaigns from refugee support groups and local residents who were unhappy that people should be housed there.

Cherwell District Council Conservative Councillors commented: “The Campsfield House detention centre is currently closed.

“It has operated in the past under governments including all major political parties, Labour, Liberal and Conservative.

“It is owned and operated and paid for by the Home Office under national immigration rules.

“Cherwell District Council has never had any say in operating Campsfield House and has never paid for any part of the operations at Campsfield House.

“It is not correct to say that refugees are detained at Campsfield House without due process, but this is a matter for national government and not for Cherwell District Council.”

Barry Wood, Leader of the Council and Leader of the Conservative Group, said: “One thing I can be really sure of is that this council isn’t going to be spending any money on Campsfield House.

“If it goes ahead this will be a government proposal and a government project.

“Whether or not it eventually needs planning consent from us, that will be a technocrat matter for the planning committee.”


Read more from this author

This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1

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