19 Oct 2013

Fire at immigration centre leaves two in hospital

An investigation is underway to try and determine the cause of a fire at an immigration detention centre near Oxford which left two people in hospital and resulted in detainees being moved.

Ten fire engines were called to Campsfield House immigration removal centre on Friday night, and minibuses with black-out windows continued to arrive and leave the site on Saturday morning.

Two men are in hospital following the fire, but no further details about those injured have been released.

The centre is privately run by the FTSE 250 company, MITIE, and has space for 216 beds. The UK Border Agency describes the centre as “long term”, for detainees who are waiting for their case resolutions and subsequent removal from the UK.

A Home Office spokesman said: “A fire at Campsfield immigration removal centre has led to more than half of the detainees being relocated to other removal centres around the UK.

“All the detainees have been accounted for and two male detainees are now in hospital. The cause of the fire is being investigated by police and the fire service.”

The fire broke out in one of the three blocks that make up the centre. The larger site is used for training purposes for the prison and police services.

A team of fire investigators from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service arrived at the centre at about 11.20am, as experts piece together the cause of the blaze.

Smell of smoke

People living nearby said they say emergency services arriving on Friday night, and could smell the smoke from nearby.

A woman who lives nearby said: “I could smell smoke but it was hazy and damp last night so it was difficult to see anything over there.”

She did see four or five fire engines approaching a side entrance into the compound.

Another couple, who have lived near to the centre for four years, said it was generally “quiet” and there had been no trouble in the time they had been there.

Their neighbour, a woman who has lived in the road more than 30 years, said she smelled what she thought was “bonfire smoke”, later hearing sirens. She said there had been very little trouble over the years. “We had some escapees a few years ago, maybe six years ago, but they caught them.

“They caught one of them in a back garden in a house up the road, but we’ve had no trouble at all since.”