Plans for a detention centre capable of housing up to 20 failed asylum seekers in Northern Ireland have been put on hold.
Larne Borough Council voted to delay a decision on Monday despite initial approval from the Planning Service.
Under current legislation, any person who is detained under immigration powers can be held for a maximum of seven days, however, there are no facilities to hold suspected illegal immigrants in Northern Ireland.
Instead they are arrested then held in police cells — some for as long as five days — before being transferred to official detention centres in Scotland and England.
Last year the Criminal Justice Inspectorate criticised the practice in its report into custody suites.
The report said this practice was unacceptable and recommended the UK Border Agency find an alternative arrangement, such as the establishment of a short-term holding centre. The deadline was set for September this year.
Last year the Belfast Telegraph revealed the UKBA was looking at turning the former PSNI premises on Hope Street into such a facility. If approved, the centre could be operational by next year.
A spokeswoman from the Planning Service confirmed it had granted initial approval.
“The application went before Larne Borough Council on Monday with a recommendation to approve but was deferred for an office meeting to be held in October,” she added.