A detention centre for failed asylum seekers that has cost taxpayers more than £6 million to hold just 14 families is to be shut down.
The announcement to close the unit - Cedars at Pease Pottage - was made this week by Minister of State for Immigration Robert Goodwill.
The centre is a secure unit for families awaiting deportation - but was frequently left empty. Calls for its closure were made earlier this year following publication of a report which revealed its staggering accommodation costs.
The unit is to be replaced with new accommodation at Tinsley House immigration removal centre near Gatwick. But children’s charity Barnado’s has hit out at the change.
Cedars has been open since 2011 and is on the site of a former hotel. It is run by the security firm G4S on behalf of the Home Office.
A review earlier this year recommended on value- for-money grounds that the Home Office should draw up plans either to close Cedars or to change its use ‘as a matter of urgency.’
The call came in a report by former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw who added that the current use of Cedars was “simply unacceptable at a time of financial austerity.”
The fact that Cedars was hardly used was hailed by the Home Office as a sign of its success. And in a statement this week Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said: “The low level of use of Cedars pre-departure accommodation over the last few years is a testament to the overall success of the family returns process and, in particular, to the fact that more families are accepting voluntary assistance to leave the UK when they no longer have a lawful basis to stay.
“Cedars has from the outset only been intended to be used as a last resort.”
Children’s charity Barnado’s provides social workers and child welfare services at Cedars.
Chief executive Javed Khan said he was pleased that Cedars had been described as an ‘exceptional facility’ and ‘an example of best practice in caring for some of the most vulnerable people subject to immigration control’.
“However,” he said, “We do not feel that the new proposed accommodation is in the best interests of the children and have told ministers we cannot support the move. We will continue to work with the Home Office until Cedars closes.”