Petition against Royal Docks immigration centre gains more than 1,000 signatures

Warehouse K is next door to the ExCeL exhibition centre which is where the NHS Nightingale Hospital

Warehouse K is next door to the ExCeL exhibition centre which is where the NHS Nightingale Hospital was set up. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition against a government bid to open an immigration centre in the borough.

A total of 1,598 individuals have signalled their opposition to Warehouse K in Western Gateway, Royal Docks, becoming a base where people going through the immigration process report.

The bid includes a temporary holding facility, interview rooms and offices.

Petition organiser, Zita Holbourne, said: “This is a multi-cultural borough. Many people feel it is a safe environment because we are so multicultural. It’s unacceptable to impose this on Newham.”

The Home Office is preparing a change of use planning application for part of the building so it can operate as a reporting centre. It wants its Beckett House centre staff moved from Southwark to Newham.

The department estimates just under 20 per cent of those who would use the centre live in Newham.

Ms Holbourne said: “It seems they want to move it to Newham to target migrant communities for detention and deportation.”

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A Home Office spokesperson said: “The proposed site is not a detention centre and it is completely wrong to say that we are targeting people for detention and deportation.”

She added the centre would provide a number of services to maintain a “firm but fair” immigration system, including support for vulnerable migrants and those who do not have a right to stay in the UK.

Ms Holbourne, co-founder and national chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC), claimed the centre would create a hostile environment.

She suggested the government should learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal before pursuing the bid.

As part of its work BARAC supports migrants and refugees.

The government spokesperson said home secretary Priti Patel has apologised for the treatment of the Windrush generation and is leading an “unprecedented” programme of change at the Home Office.

Ms Holbourne has also called for the results of the government’s public consultation on the centre to be published.

“We don’t know if they will really take into account people’s views. It seems a sham,” she said.

The Home Office said consultation feedback will be published in due course and it hopes to submit the change of use application in November.

The town hall granted permission in October 2019 for the government to make alterations to the building, but maintains it was in the dark about the centre plan.

The government says it fully engaged with Newham and made its plan to replace an existing centre clear.