Jail may become holding centre for asylum seekers

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The Independent Online
Plans to convert a jail into a secure holding centre for asylum seekers and foreigners trying to enter Britain are being examined by the head of the Prison Service. The move to transform a former prisoner-of-war camp in Kent comes shortly after about 800 Czech and Slovak gypsies entered the country via Dover seeking asylum.

There is growing concern about the use of normal prisons to house immigrants, who often have to wait many months, and in some cases years, for their cases to be resolved. About 500 detainees are currently housed in this way. Richard Tilt, director-general of the Prison Service, is considering converting Aldington prison into an immigration detainee holding centre, in response to recommendations made by Sir David Ramsbotham, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, in his report on the Kent jail.

Sir David suggested making Aldington, currently a jail for low-security risk inmates, a central holding centre for all immigration detainees held in normal prisons. He said Aldington, is "geographically and physically, ideally situated" for this purpose. The prison is close to the Channel tunnel terminal at Ashford and the ports of Dover and Folkestone.

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