DOZENS of people attended a consultation day to find out more about the new Portland Immigration Removal Centre.

Staff at Immigration Removal Centre Verne and those from the Home Office were on hand yesterday at the Jailhouse Cafe to show members of the public the new plans for the site and answer any questions.

The former Verne citadel will be known as IRC Verne when it opens. It will house a maximum of 580 men over the age of 18, who have been detained by the Home Office under immigration law.

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

Refurbishment has been done to the accommodation, including new windows being fitted.

There will be new security measures, including extensive CCTV coverage of the site. There will also be a new multi-use sports site which detainees will be able to use for a variety of different sports including football, cricket and basket ball.

A new faith area will be created for the men to use and there will be a chapel, multi-faith centre and mosque.

There will be a focus on learning and skills to provide the men with qualifications on both short and longer courses.

Former Governor of the Verne James Lucas said it had been a good afternoon.

He said: “We have been really pleased with the turn out and as always we have been so pleased to see the amount of support in the community for the Verne.”

He added: “We will be opening in a matter of a few weeks, we are on the last push of the building programme.”

Mr Lucas said that everyone was keen to start their new roles. Staff had been given additional training on immigration law and any cultural issues the detainees may have.

Mr Lucas said: “We are very excited about the future. It's given Verne a new lease of life and we are looking forward to the next four years of our contract.”

The new IRC team are very keen to have the continuing support from the community and looking at different ways they can keep those links Mr Lucas said.

He added: “I am very pleased to announce David Ward will be my successor, as I will be moving on to govern the YOI in April.”

Mr Ward has formerly worked at Usk Prescoed and Winchester as Govenour.

N The Jailhouse Cafe is currently temporarily closed but it will be opening in the next few weeks. The cafe will continue to be run when IRC Verne opens and will continue to be staffed by the men from the YOI.

PANEL PEOPLE attended the meeting to hear about the new IRC centre.

Keith Hardcastle, 70, lives in Fortuneswell and used to live near an IRC in Oxfordshire. He said he had come up to find out what was going to happen to the former prison.

Janice Baillie, 67, lives on the Isle. She said: “I think it's good. At least it's not going to wrack and ruin, at least the building is being used and that the staff still have their jobs.”

Frank Tough, from Weymouth, is a engineer and provides cover work with IRC education provider Weston College. He said he was 'excited' about the new centre and said he was impressed by the new sports facilities, adding that hopefully he would be back doing some cover work at the IRC.

Mr Tough added that the new centre could be good for local businesses, as visitors could use local facilities.

He said: “It should be good.”