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Smith opens Britain’s biggest removal centre

Ms. Smith: "I’m committed to removing more foreign lawbreakers faster than ever before”
18th March 2009: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has opened Britain’s biggest immigration removal centre.

The new 426-bed detention centre, built next to Gatwick Airport, will help ensure the UK Border Agency can continue to remove record numbers of foreign lawbreakers from the UK.

Brook House, the biggest secure unit of its kind in the country, will house male illegal migrants and foreign criminals, and increases the country’s detention capacity to nearly 3,000 bed spaces.

Home Office said that detention is a vital tool that helps the UK Border Agency remove those with no right to be in the country. Last year over 66,000 people were removed from the UK or left voluntarily – one every eight minutes. This includes 5,395 foreign criminals – made up of 50 killers and attempted killers, over 200 sex offenders and more than 1,500 drug dealers.

Home Office said that the extra capacity at Brook House will allow for the removal of even more foreign national prisoners, illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers.

Ms. Smith said: "I’m committed to removing more foreign lawbreakers faster than ever before, that’s why the opening of this Immigration Removal Centre is so important.

"By expanding our detention capacity and working closely with countries to re-document foreign nationals faster, we’re making it more difficult than ever to stay in the UK illegally.

"The message is clear – whether you’re a visa overstayer, a foreign criminal or a failed asylum seeker, the UK Border Agency is determined to track you down and remove you from Britain."

The government said it is committed to clamping down on illegal migrants and controlling the UK’s border. The UK Border Agency is increasing its detention estate by 60 per cent by 2012.

There are plans of adding a new 370-bed wing to Harmondsworth Removal Centre, near Heathrow Airport, by 2010.

As well as the opening of Brook House and the expansion of Harmondsworth, the Home Office has submitted two planning applications for centres at Bullingdon in Oxfordshire and Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire. A decision on which site is pursued will depend on the planning process.

Home Office said that detention is seen as a last resort by the government – when someone is found to have no right to be in the UK they are expected to leave voluntarily saving the taxpayer the cost of a stint in an immigration removal centre and an enforced return home.

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