Immigrants to be held at Norfolk airbase

Home Office bosses have confirmed they will buy the former airbase at RAF Coltishall and convert part of it into a detention centre for immigrants.

Home Office bosses have confirmed they will buy the former airbase at RAF Coltishall and convert part of it into a detention centre for immigrants.

A statement earlier this afternoon said the airbase would be transferred to the Home Office "as part of efforts to expand detention capacity".

The statement failed to make it absolutely clear whether this meant an immigration removal centre would definitely be built, but a Home Office spokeswoman has since confirmed the development will go ahead.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has said the statement "begs more questions than it answers".

The original statement reads:

The former RAF base at Coltishall, near Norwich, is being transferred to the Home Office.

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Today's announcement follows discussions, which began last year, with local MPs and councillors about the proposed plans to create a new immigration removal centre and will help deliver additional detention capacity committed to as part of the Home Secretary's review of immigration published last year.

Welcoming today's announcement director general of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) Lin Homer said: "Increasing IND's detention space is an important step in delivering on the Home Secretary, John Reid's, commitments, which included doubling our enforcement activity and enforcing our immigration laws more robustly.

"We are committed to enforcing immigration controls and determined to ensure that those abusing the system and the UK's hospitality are removed.

"Removing those who have no right to remain in the UK is an integral part of a balanced approach to asylum and immigration.

"In 2005 we achieved 17,000 asylum removals and enforced the removal of over 12,000 non-asylum offenders. Additional detention capacity will help us expand that even further.

"We will also double our enforcement and compliance resources by 2009 as well as targeting enforcement against those who are the most harmful to the UK."