asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase the accommodation available for the detention of persons under the Immigration Act 1971.
In the light of continuing pressure on existing accommodation for the detention of persons under the Immigration Act 1971, I have decided that the most effective and economic way to provide more detention accommodation for immigration purposes quickly will be to lease a ship. My Department has therefore agreed to charter from Sealink the motor vessel Earl William. The charter is for three months in the first instance.The ship will be moored at Harwich and will remain alongside the quay throughout its use as an immigration detention centre. In common with existing immigration detention centres, care of the detainees will be the responsibility of Securior. Catering services will be provided by a private contractor.The Earl William is a modern car ferry; sleeping accommodation is in four-berth cabins, each with integral sanitation. In practice we would expect the number accommodated to be no more than 120, which is about half the total passenger capacity of the vessel. The public rooms on the ship will provide adequate space for relaxation and visits by relatives, friends and lawyers in comfortable but not luxurious conditions. The ship will be available to the Home Office from about II May and the first detention cases will go on board about the middle of May.