The Immigration Reception Centre, at Oakington gets a pretty poor press. There was the critical 2008 inspection report from Anne Owers (click here for a link) and the recent tragic death of Eliud Nyenze. So when Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, Oakington parish council chair David Reeves and County Councillor David Jenkins visited it was with some concern.
They met the Group 4 manager of the centre, managers from the UK border agency and the chair of the Independent Monitoring Board. They also spoke to several detainees and had a good tour of the site and its facilities. They were pleasantly surprised.
Inasmuch as it exists and it has a purpose it appeared to be well run and there was no evidence of the shortcomings highlighted in the Owers report. It looks and feels like a barracks and there’s no getting away from that and the Group 4 staff have a military look about them. However when detainees complained it was generally about the food which is hardly surprising given the UK’s reputation for institutional catering. They have easy access to the internet, there’s plenty of light and space (Oakington compares favourably in this respect with other detention centres) and there are opportunities for education.
David said: ‘I was encouraged. Although I was uncomfortable with some aspects of the centre it seems to be to do a fair job given the role which it’s been given. Although there is much inevitable ‘hanging around doing nothing’ there was also quite some activity. Sadly the football game was being played on a less than full sized pitch with mini-goals when there is a full size pitch (with rugby posts) unused jut outside the secure area.’
Click here for a copy of the press release issued by Julian after the visit.