Home Office in bid to open immigration centre in Royal Victoria Dock
- Credit: Archant
The Home Office is planning to set up an immigration centre in the Royal Docks.
The proposed centre would be housed at the Grade II-listed Warehouse K building next door to the ExCeL exhibition centre.
Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, said: “Operation of the warehouse as a 24-hour immigration enforcement centre, with 35 custody suites, continuous transportation and custody of suspected offenders in high sided vans, is an affront to our diverse community as well as being contrary to Newham’s vision for the Royal Docks.
“In light of new revelations that the government is considering setting up asylum camps in places as far flung as Moldova and Papua New Guinea, it’s clear the ‘hostile environment’ for refugees and asylum seekers is very much alive.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We engaged fully with Newham Council over our search to find a replacement to our current reporting centre in central London and our planning application, which was submitted a year ago and approved by the council, also made clear our intention to replace an existing immigration centre.
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“As requested by the council, we will now be making a change of use application and if it is successful, staff from Becket House would be transferred to the new site in the Royal Victoria Docks.
“The public rightly expect us to maintain a fair but firm immigration system, which these reporting centres play a key role in.”
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The department added it was incorrect to describe it as a detention centre and that it would be used for offices, interview rooms and include a short-term temporary holding facility to accommodate up to 35 people.
One of its functions would be to support migrants, some of whom could be vulnerable, with immigration cases.
The Home Office was granted planning permission in October last year to use the building.
The town hall says the Home Office was leasing the warehouse as offices, but it was in the dark about plans to use it “for interviews and immigration detention purposes”.
A new application is expected to be submitted to change the building’s use.
Ms Fiaz – in a statement released the day Black History Month started – said Newham Council stands in solidarity with the Windrush generation, whose experiences exposed “the scandal of the hostile environment”.
“We celebrated their contributions as a nation in June and we are now marking their significance during Black History Month.
“The proposed change of use of Warehouse K would be wholly at odds with our approach to stand with our communities in that same spirit of solidarity,” the mayor said.
She added that recent reports home secretary Priti Patel had asked officials to look into the idea of processing asylum seekers on overseas islands raised further alarm about the direction of government policy.
The Home Office spokesperson said Ms Patel apologised unreservedly for the treatment of the Windrush Generation and is leading an unprecedented programme of change to build a Home Office that serves every part of the community it serves.
An ExCeL spokesperson said: “We are carefully reviewing and considering the proposed new use for Warehouse K and will be responding accordingly.”
Rob Ferguson from campaign group, Stand Up to Racism, said: “The siting of an immigration enforcement centre in Newham is an outrage.”