The news that Dover Immigration Removal Centre is set to close has been a real shock to those that work there. I am deeply concerned for all the employees and their families.
The Home Office announced last week that the IRC will be transferred back to the Ministry of Justice, and immigrants housed in Dover are to be transferred to other removal centres. The Home Office felt that the Dover site was not modern enough, secure enough, or near enough to a departure airport. For these reasons they are closing the site.
As soon as I was made aware of the closure I went to see the Immigration Minister and the Prisons Minister. The Home Office and Ministry of Justice will need to work closely so that nothing – and no-one - falls between the cracks. I have urged them both to do all they can to ensure that the dedicated staff of the IRC have a smooth transition into a new job. Every member of staff should be be helped to gain a position elsewhere.
A number of staff have already contacted me and I am doing all I can. It is important to get on the front foot now and make our voices heard. As the MP for Dover I have always banged the drum for my constituents. Now more than ever that will be the case.
This week I have held further meetings with Ministers to discuss jobs and their response has been positive. They understand how difficult this will be for staff and are working to offer support to the workers. Local training companies have also offered their services. It's really welcome that district councillors and the town council are also helping the workers. Together we are doing all we can at every level.
It is also important to consider the future of the IRC site. If the Home Office are determined to stop it being an IRC, it would not make sense for it to stay as a prison or place of detention. We should make the most of the opportunity to redevelop the Western Heights with a high quality development and make the Western Heights an even greater place to live. And we should have a proper consultation with the people of Dover to find out what residents want to see happen. Too often it seems that decisions are made behind closed doors. This is a chance for engagement and we should not lose the chance to do something really great here.
But right now, the most important thing is the future of the workers. These are people who have dedicated their lives to helping protect our borders. It is right that they should be helped into new roles and continue to have the security of work and a regular pay packet. I will do all I can.
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