Socialist Worker

New Labour's camp for refugees

Issue No. 1670

A CONCENTRATION camp for refugees. That is what the New Labour government is now planning. The Home Office is to open a privately run camp for refugees on the site of a former military barracks at Oakington near Cambridge. This will double the number of asylum seekers locked up at any one time.

Refugees sent to the new internment camp will not be allowed to use 274 empty Ministry of Defence houses on the site because they are considered to be too nice for refugees! Instead the refugees will be housed in hastily adapted barracks.

The Home Office says asylum seekers will not be allowed to leave the Oakington camp without permission. If they do they will be branded 'absconders', hunted down, arrested and thrown into the Campsfield detention centre which is run by Group 4.

The Home Office says all those entering Britain without proper papers will be interned. But many asylum seekers cannot get out of the country from which they are fleeing without forged papers. The measures will see whole families locked up.

Officials claim refugees will only be forced to stay in the camps for a few days while their claims are processed. But latest figures show that 45 percent of initial claims take longer than six months. The new camp was announced as the government was pushing a vicious anti-asylum bill through its final stages in parliament.

New Labour's measures will only encourage the Tories and the racists who have been stirring up prejudice against asylum seekers for months. If the government continues to send out the message that asylum seekers are 'bogus' and must be rounded up, it will be encouraging more racist attacks.

Shocking Toll

up to 800 asylum seekers are locked up in police cells, prisons and detention centres across Britain.

On 31 August 1999 there were 42 asylum seekers in Britain who had been detained for more than a year and 176 who had been locked up for between six and 12 months.

At least 76 unaccompanied children were detained between 1 January 1997 and 2 June 1998.

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Article information

Sat 30 Oct 1999, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1670
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