The opening of two new wings at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) will make it Europe’s largest, immigration minister Damian Green announced today. The unveiling of additional detention space comes as the UK Border Agency is intensifying enforcement activity across the country to crackdown on illegal working, sham marriages, bogus colleges and organised immigration crime.
The new high security accommodation is ready for use, and at full capacity it will house 364 of the UK Border Agency’s most difficult detainees, significantly enhancing the new government’s ability to remove foreign criminals from the UK.
Immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘I am pleased to be able to open the new wings at Harmondsworth today, which make it Europe’s largest detention centre and a welcome addition to the UK Border Agency’s estate. It will provide 364 new bed spaces, increasing our capacity to remove people with no right to stay in the UK. The beds will be used for some of the most challenging detainees the UK Border Agency holds, the vast majority of whom are former prisoners who have committed serious offences. I believe foreign criminals should be sent home at the earliest opportunity, and today we have taken another step in that direction.”
The first detainees were accepted earlier this month, and the current plan is that it will take approximately seven to eight weeks to have the new accommodation fully occupied. Already under the new government, there have been more than 1900 failed asylum seekers and more than 990 foreign national prisoners removed from the UK.
After opening the new wings, the minister visited Heathrow Terminal One to see the frontline checks in place at the border, including anti-forgery equipment and drug detection scanners. On visiting Britain’s busiest airport, he added: ‘Keeping Britain’s border secure is a priority for this government – which is why it is crucial that we have vigilant border staff utilising the latest technology in our fight against the people traffickers, drug smugglers and illegal immigrants determined to come here and cause harm.’ During his visit, he met frontline UK Border Agency staff, was given a demonstration by detection dogs, and watched as officers used the latest technology to search bags for hidden, smuggled substances.