The outgoing chairman of Ukip in Bristol has backed controversial removal centres for illegal immigrants saying there should be "one in every town." He also appeared to suggest that those entering the country illegally should be sent to prison.

Phillip Collins stressed that holding centres should not be the same as prisons, but added: "If they were to go to prison, really I would say a six month prison term for coming over here, using our facilities and using our services would be right for breaking the law."

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK the former chairman, who has resigned to concentrate on standing for local council elections with Ukip in May, said families should be broken up if one member is here illegally and other members aren't.

He said: "They would be treated humanely and fairly and properly but would not be allowed into the wider community. If one member of a family is illegal and the others aren't well, the illegal one would have to be put into the holding community. If the mother is illegal and the father is not, they should be separated.

"If they are ill then they can go to hospital but they should be escorted to hospital like prisoners. They should be held in the holding centre until they find papers for them. At the moment the police let them go but then they disappear and then they stay here forever.

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"These holding centres would be like prisons with unlocked doors, then after they've all been used and we've got rid of all the immigrants then we could turn them into actual prisons.

Collins made the comments after an interview with VICE in which he insisted all Eastern European immigrants should leave the UK, and that this country, "within three or four generations will be a Muslim country."

He told the magazine "Unless we do something about it, we'll be the ones on the street begging for change."

He also told their reporter that there should be two or three holding centres in every city.

Collins said these were his personal views are not the views of Ukip. "I'm not sure what official Ukip policy is," he told the Huffington Post UK.

"There are two million illegal immigrants in the UK and there should be as many holding centres as necessary to keep all of them in," he added.

"It sounds like a lot of money up front but it would create jobs. There are as many as two million illegal immigrants using all our services and facilities. "

Britain's prison population stands at 84,000 with a maximum capacity of 88,000. The last formal study of irregular (illegal) immigrants in 2007 put the number between 417,000 and 863,000, according to the migration observatory.

Currently the UK has 12 immigration removal centres, with a capacity of 4055, which exist to house foreign nationals awaiting decisions on their asylum claims or awaiting deportation following a failed application. Of the twelve centres, half are devoted to purely male detainees.

The removal centres have proved controversial since their inception with opponents saying it is wrong to imprison people who are fleeing persecution and who have committed no crime.

A spokesperson for Migrants' Rights Network told the Huffington Post UK there were significant problems with removal centres as "there's no limitation for how long people can be held."

"It's a huge human rights and personal liberty issue. Individuals can spend years in detention while the UK Border Agency tries to remove them."

Detention Action, which supports and campaigns with people held in detention centres, told the Huffington Post UK Collins was guilty of "wild exaggerations" about migration.

Campaigner Kate Blagojevic told the Huffington Post UK "There are a lot of myths and misinformation peddled about migration in the UK and Phillip Collins is repeating them word for word plus a few wild exaggerations, for example, saying that there are 2 million people are living in the UK without documentation is simply a lie.

"However, worryingly a lot of his suggestions are already in practice - people are escorted and handcuffed in hospitals; families are already broken up; and people are already held in prison like centres for months or even years."

She said the current removal centres are "expensive, unnecessary and unfair," saying that to hold someone for one day costs around £120 and added "people who are held for a year are more likely to be released than removed."

Countering Collins' claims she said: "We are one of the countries in Europe that detains people without any time limit and detain people as soon as they claim asylum.

"I speak to people daily in pubs and restaurants as well - they think that the UK had a duty to protect people who a seeking safely; to uphold a tradition of welcoming refugees; who believe that families should not be ripped apart; who believe that children shouldn't grow up without parents; who believe that the UK should have an immigration system based on fairness not force."

Detention Centre Rules insist that safety and security is to be maintained but "with no more restriction than is required for safe custody and well ordered community life."

However there have been a number of disturbances at centres, shining a spotlight on the controversial practice.

At Morton Hall in Lincolnshire, three prisoners threatened to commit suicide in the past year, there have been riots and a group of 18 asylum seekers from Afghanistan going on hunger strike.

A Nigerian man scaled the roof in protest over his prolonged detention in August, while one Palestinian and one Malaysian protested at the the 'disrespectful' and 'inhumane' treatment at the hands of the guards. Allegations of racism and violence were also made by one anonymous whistleblower.

"The problem we have is these people feel they are treated like criminals when their crimes are simply fleeing their own country for whatever reason," Iman Sajid from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said at the time.

Additionally, detainees at a Dover immigration removal centre who claimed they had been tortured were treated dismissively, prisons inspectors said in August.

In February an 84-year-old Canadian man died after becoming ill at an immigration removal centre near Heathrow airport. The Guardian reported that Alois Dvorzac was "extremely distressed" the day he was rushed to hospital with chest pains.

morton hall in lincolnshire

Morton Hall in Lincolnshire

Ukip MEP Gerard Batten said Collins,' idea was "superficially attractive" but impractical. In a statement to the Huffington Post UK he said: "We would expect all illegal immigrants to register as such with the authorities, in an advertised time period.

"If they do not, and the authorities become aware of their presence, then they open themselves to automatic deportation, as illegal immigrants."

"It may be superficially attractive to think that all illegals should be processed though these centres, but given that there are only 4000 places in them when there are anything up to 1 million illegal immigrants in the country, it is neither humane nor practical to do so".

gerard batten

Gerard Batten, in pink, said the idea was superficially attractive but not practical

Ukip was accused by David Cameron of being a party of "fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists" in 2006, a description that has cast a shadow over the party ever since, despite fervent denials by Ukip.

However the founder and former leader of Ukip, Professor Alan Sked, says the party he launched in 1993 has become "extraordinarily right-wing" and is now devoted to "creating a fuss, via Islam and immigrants." He told the Huffington Post UK in November "They're not an intellectually serious party. Their views on immigrants and on [banning] the burqa are morally dodgy."

However Collins says he represents the views of the majority, saying: "I speak to people daily in pubs and restaurants and on the street and all the British people feel this way. The other EU countries don't abide by these rules, we're the only country stupid enough to do this . There are A LOT of people who feel this way, the vast majority. The British people are being taken the p**s out of. "


UPDATE:

Collins will no longer be standing for Ukip in the forthcoming elections, the party has said.

Steve Wood, the new Chairman of UKIP Bristol's branch said in a statement:

"Phil Collins is no longer Chairman of our Bristol branch, and following the comments reported in the press about immigration will not be standing for UKIP in the forthcoming Council elections".

"UKIP will be fighting on a whole range of local issues in May, but there is no place for someone representing the party holding views like those reported".