Axed Cedars family deportation centre is 'excellent' but 'little used'

Library Image copyright HM Inspectorate of Prisons
Image caption Cedars library had "a wide range of English and multilingual books, DVDs, magazines and newspapers for learning or pleasure"

A centre for families facing deportation, which is due to close, is "excellent" but "little used", according to prison inspectors.

The Cedars unit near Gatwick Airport costs £6.4m a year to run and was set up in 2011 so children were not held in adult immigration centres.

But the inspectors report said it housed only 45 families in two years.

The government announced last month it would be replaced by more "cost-effective" accommodation.

The unit at Pease Pottage near Crawley, West Sussex, holds families before their removal from the UK.

It is managed by security firm G4S, the Home Office and the children's charity Barnado's.

Image copyright HM Inspectorate of Prisons
Image caption The centre has nine "well-equipped, comfortable and spacious" self-contained apartments
Image copyright HM Inspectorate of Prisons
Image caption Children and young people were given "stimulating and informative sessions" to learn about countries they were going to

The inspection in April described it as "ground-breaking".

Premises are maintained to a "very high standard" with nine "well-equipped, comfortable and spacious" apartments, each with a kitchen and sitting room.

The house has free internet, a gym, library, IT rooms and a multi-faith chapel.

"Excellent" indoor facilities also include a "youth lounge with a television, up-to-date games consoles, table football, snooker and a wide range of string and percussion instruments."

Image copyright HM Inspectorate of Prisons
Image caption Outdoor facilities include two adventure play areas, an all-weather quarter-size football pitch, bicycles, scooters and "landscaped lawns with a sensory garden".
Image copyright HM Inspectorate of Prisons
Image caption Inspectors said Cedars was "well decorated with interesting murals and artworks"

The report found the centre was "little used". In the last two years 45 families had been detained there, one of them twice, but only 16 left the country.

Families facing deportation will now be held in a small unit at a nearby removal centre, Tinsley House in Crawley.

A Home Office spokeswoman said Cedars would close at the end of the year. She said its low use showed the success of the "family returns process" and more families were now accepting voluntary help to leave.

But the chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: "The groundbreaking facility at Cedars will be lost, despite the significant human and financial investment in its success over the past few years.

"Cedars produced the best outcomes for detainees that we have seen anywhere in immigration detention," he added.

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