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Santa Claus denied entry in an immigrant holding centre

The staff of a store had to return back without giving gifts to the inmates of an immigrant holding centre, as they were denied entry by guards.   

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Santa Claus found his way obstructed by perimeter fences, locked doors and security guards when he tried to distribute Christmas gifts to an immigration facility last week.

The presents had been intended for families who were currently being held at the “pre-departure” centre during the Christmas.

The Lush store in Eastbourne wanted to extend a little joy and exhorted their customers to donate gifts.

When they arrived at the centre, with Father Christmas in tow, they were turned away by “rude” immigration staff who said their presents were “not needed”.

The centre in Pease Pottage, known as Cedars, is a holding facility for immigrants who were due to be deported after entering the country illegally.

Liz Snooks, from Lush, said that all they were trying to do  was to give children some presents at Christmas time.

Snooks added, “We were prepared to go through whatever they demanded of us security-wise as we are aware it is a holding centre, but instead we’ve been met with rudeness and flat refusal.

The Lush centre representative added that the writing on the Border Agency website was that it was an open facility but they were not even allowed through the front gate.

Representatives from the SOAS Detainee Support and Croydon Migrant Solidarity group went with the staff from Lush to the centre on December 23 at around 5pm.

The group claimed they were treated as protestors, rather than visitors, which is why the gifts were refused.

They also said that staff at Cedars would not come out to the gate to receive the presents so they had to leave and take the presents back.

Clarifying a UK Border Agency spokesman said the gifts had been rejected for security and health and safety reasons.

He said they were not supposed to allow unchecked packages into the centre. He added, “We also have to consider the safety and security of children placed there, which is why visits must be arranged in advance.”

The spokesman added that the facility “could not be further in look or feel from an Immigration Removal Centre”, adding that “families have open access to a library, youth lounge; soft play area and extensive outside play area and gardens”.

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