Liam Byrne: New immigration centre planned to speed up removals

Immigration minister Liam Byrne today announced plans for a new removal centre to speed up the deportation of illegal migrants and expand the controversial “fast-track” asylum process.

The Home Office will pursue planning applications for new sites at Yarls Wood, Bedfordshire – next to the existing centre – and in Bicester, Oxfordshire.

The former could house 400 migrants and the latter 800, though the Home Office only plans to open one new centre – by 2012 – with the other kept as a long-term option.

In a parliamentary statement today, Byrne said he wanted to increase the removal rate from its current level of one every eight minutes, but promised to listen to the concerns of local communities over the construction of the new centre.

Fast-track asylum scheme

The new centre would also expand the controversial fast-track scheme for asylum seekers, under which their claims are decided quickly at Yarls Wood or the Harmondsworth centre, near Heathrow. However, success rates – in terms of gaining asylum or leave to remain – are far lower than average, prompting campaigners to question the fairness of the fast-track process.

Byrne also reiterated existing plans to increase the current 2,500 places by 900 by early 2010, through a new centre at Brook House, near Gatwick (420 beds), new wings at Harmondsworth (370 beds), and a 100 extra beds in total at the Dover and Oakington centres.

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