FOR IMMEDIATE USE
The Campaign to Close Campsfield today expressed serious reservations about the expected appointment of Councillor Alan Armitage as Lord Mayor of Oxford.
Councillor Armitage serves as a lay member of a panel advising judges on whether foreign national prisoners should be deported. He has no relevant qualifications, but his vote is equal to a judge’s when majority votes are taken. He is paid for the role.
The Campaign to Close Campsfield opposes all racist deportations. Foreign nationals who have been convicted of a criminal offence are often deported, although they should not be if they have received a sentence of no more than 12 months (for example, entering the country without documentation specified by the UK Border Agency). This provision is often called “double punishment”, as deportation is essentially a second punishment for a crime whose sentence has already been served. Campaigners point out that double punishment is racist discrimination, since foreign nationals convicted of a criminal offence are treated differently to British Citizens convicted of the same offence.
Aileen Mooney, representing the Campaign to Close Campsfield, said: “The Lord Mayor is supposed to represent all the communities in Oxford during his term of office. But thanks to his role in Britain’s racist immigration system, Oxford’s First Citizen could end up deporting other citizens of Oxford. How can he maintain the trust of all of Oxford’s residents when at any moment he could recommend deporting some of them? We have to ask whether these roles are compatible.”
In the UK, immigration detention is inextricably linked to deportation. While asylum seekers are frequently detained arbitrarily at all stages of the asylum process, detention is used routinely ahead of deportation. Oxford City Council has existing policy calling for the closure of Campsfield. Councillor Armitage has not clarified whether he personally believes that the deportations he recommends could be carried out without recourse to immigration detention centres such as Campsfield. Campaigners may argue his role is incompatible
with Council policy.
Members of the Campaign to Close Campsfield have met with Councillor Armitage but felt his views on immigration were inconsistent. The Campaign hopes to have further discussions with the Lord Mayor together with migrants in Oxford.
1. The following Motion was passed by Oxford City Council on 17 September 2004 and has subsequently been renewed:
“Campsfield House – Expansion
That Campsfield House began to be used to lock up asylum seekers over 10 years ago.
That it has been plagued by suicide attempts, hunger strikes and mass protest ever since.
That in 2002 the Government finally promised to close this outdated and overcrowded detention centre.
That recently the Government went back on its promise and decided to expand the detention facilities at Campsfield to nearly 300 places.
That Oxford is not only home to many asylum seekers but also of many of the groups that support them.
The regular meetings of the “Close Campsfield” Campaign in the Town Hall, representing a wide variety of Oxford City residents who wish to see Campsfield House shut down.
That those released from Campsfield House often make their way to Oxford, the nearest major town, calling for a special response in our provision of public services.
That Oxford City Council has a responsibility to give an example of respect and tolerance for asylum seekers, and to ensure that they are welcomed into Oxford’s community.
That treating asylum seekers like criminals is inhumane and counterproductive.
That the UK should meet its international treaty obligations to treat asylum seekers with respect and dignity.
That Campsfield House should be closed, not expanded.
1. To write to both of Oxford’s MPs, urging them to put pressure on the Government to rethink the expansion of Campsfield House.
2. To write to Home Office, urging them to close Campsfield House, and to withdraw the plans for an additional Oxfordshire detention centre at Bicester.”
2. The Campaign to Close Campsfield can be contacted on 01865 558 145.