The organisation recognises the importance of access to legal advice and the availability of other essential services at Oakington and said that the principle change that is required at the centre is to stop forcing applicants to stay on the site at all times.

The Oakington centre is used by the Government to detain asylum seekers whose claims have been fast-tracked because they are deemed to be ‘straight-forward'. The government itself acknowledges that the centre is not suitable for those who might seek to escape.

Amnesty International Refugee Officer Jan Shaw said:

'The detention of thousands of asylum seekers at Oakington has been indefensible. The Government has been locking up people who have committed no crime and who have no incentive to leave before their claim has been decided.'

'If the government converted Oakington from a detention centre to a genuine reception centre it could be transformed from a source of embarrassment to an example of good practice.'

Many applicants refused refugee status at Oakington appeal and 80% of appellants are then immediately released under the government's dispersal programme. Three of the four Iraqis who have taken the government to court for detaining them at Oakington have now had their appeals against their initial refusal of asylum allowed and the final appeal is still outstanding.

Iraqis have consistently been amongst the largest group of asylum seekers in the UK in recent years. Iraq's appalling record of political killings and torture has caused hundreds of thousands to flee with 80% staying in neighbouring Iran and only 1-2% reaching the UK.

In the Netherlands, the government operates a system of reception centres where asylum seekers are not detained but must sign in and out to ensure their claim continues to be processed.

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