After the Home Office announced it is to reopen the former Campsfield House immigration centre near Kidlington, next year, we look back at photos from the Oxford Mail archive of disturbances and of protesters who campaigned for its closure.
The previous 282-bed centre was shut in 2018 after years of problems including complaints about the conditions people were held in.
The new centre could house 400 male detainees.
On November 25, 1993, the first minibus of immigration detainees arrived from Harmondsworth, close to London’s Heathrow Airport.
Before then, Campsfield had been a youth detention centre.
The Campaign to Close Campsfield was launched in 1994 and then held monthly demonstrations until the closure in 2018.
Over the years there were some major disturbances, and Oxford Mail reporters sent to cover the incidents would have to be alert not to get in the way of the riot police.
In the summer of 2007, 26 detainees, convicted criminals, broke out of the Langford Lane centre where they were being held before deportation to their own countries.
All had served prison sentences for a variety of crimes, up to and including robbery.
They fled after a fire was started in a kitchen and police were called in to track them down.
One was apprehended by a resident living nearby who said it was the third time he had found a detainee in his garden.
Kidlington South county councillor Maurice Billington said at the time: “It was a worrying time for everyone in Kidlington when the detainees escaped, although most of the time there has not been any trouble.
“What people are particularly worried about now is what is going to go in Campsfield’s place when it closes.
“The worry for residents is that it will be some other kind of institution and there is a lot of uncertainty about what it is going to be – I don’ think they would actually build homes there.”
In June 2008, seven detainees got away and police were once again called in.
Three were recaptured within hours while a fourth man, a Libyan with a criminal record for minor assault was recaptured in the Botanical Garden in Oxford.
There were other incidents at the centre over the years.
This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.
Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.firstname.lastname@example.org
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