PEOPLE are being invited to an open meeting today to learn more about Portland’s new Immigration Removal Centre.

The community consultation open afternoon will give people a chance to meet the team and find out about the changes that have been happening at the former HMP Verne.

Representatives from the IRC, the Home Office, the National Offender Management Service and education provider Weston College will be available to talk to members of the community about what will be happening when the new IRC opens later this year.

There will also be photos of the work currently going on inside the site.

The event will be held at the Jailhouse Cafe at Verne from 2.30pm to 6.30pm.

HMP Verne officially closed as a prison last November and since then staff and contractors have been hard at work making changes before it opens in its new capacity.

As part of the multi-million pound investment in the IRC site, old furniture has been removed from the rooms and new windows, beds, light fittings and smoke alarms will be installed.

There will also be new fences installed inside and security measures.

The IRC will remain part of the public sector providing a contracted service for the Home Office.

The Home Office contract will run until 2018, securing the future of the former isle citadel.

The IRC will house a maximum of 580 men over the age of 18, who have been detained by the Home Office under immigration law.

Staff from both Verne and Dorchester Prison will be working at the new IRC and will be undertaking training for their new roles.

The former governor of The Verne and IRC centre manager James Lucas encouraged members of the public to come to the open day and hear about what will be happening.

He said: “We are really excited about the opportunity to show some of the innovation we have brought to the IRC.”

There will continue to be a strong focus on learning and skills as the prison rerolls to an IRC Mr Lucas said, so that when they went back home the men would have some ‘robust qualifications’ to support themselves.

He said: “While their cases are going through and being processes they can use the time in detention in a positive way.”

Mr Lucas said they want to keep their strong ties to the local community and encouraged everyone to come along and find out more about the site.

He added: “We really hope people come along to the open day and have a coffee and a chat with us.”