The Home Office plans to build a new asylum seeker centre in North Yorkshire were rejected by councillors and local villagers. The government intended to convert RAF Linton-on-Ouse into a reception centre for up to 1,500 men, following proposals from former home secretary Priti Patel to build accommodation sites for 8,000 asylum seekers across the UK.
Councillor Mark Robson, leader of Hambleton District Council, under whose authority the base falls, said on 14 October: “Today we have finally received a response from the Home Office informing us of their decision not to progress current proposals for the use of the Linton-on-Ouse site as asylum accommodation.”
The sites would be used to house people seeking asylum while their claims were being processed. The Home Office has been criticised for a dramatic increase in processing times for asylum claims in the last five years. More than 120,000 people are waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim, according to the most recent government statistics.
Less than 5% of asylum seekers who arrived in the UK by boat last year have received a decision from the Home Office on their claim, according to the Refugee Council. Some have waited more than a year for a decision on their claim.
The Home Office has said that the centres aimed to “reduce the number of asylum seekers in hotels”. Refugee charities, including Asylum Matters, wrote an open letter to Patel in August, calling on the government to halt its plans to build accommodation centres, according to the Yorkshire Post. They said Linton-on-Ouse was a “failed experiment”, and urged the government to scrap its plans to build new centres.
🚨 We have written with 23 other organisations to @pritipatel and @BWallaceMP calling on them to learn the lessons from the failed experiment at Linton-on-Ouse and scrap the policy for asylum accommodation centres anywhere. #CommunitiesNotCampshttps://t.co/uUv6VIMzQu
— Asylum Matters 🧡 (@AsylumMatters) August 22, 2022
The letter said: “People seeking asylum will find themselves warehoused in prison-like conditions without adequate advice, healthcare, or support.”
They added that the centres could “re-traumatise” people who have fled war and persecution.
It is not the first time the Home Office has used former military bases for temporary accommodation for asylum seekers. Napier Barracks in Kent was found to be “inadequate” by the High Court, but is still being used. Penally Barracks in Pembrokeshire was forced to close last March after it was found to be “run down and unsuitable” by inspectors.
Last month, the home secretary came under fire due to overcrowding at Manston processing centre in Kent. Almost 4,000 asylum seekers, including children, are being held at the centre, which has a capacity of just 1,600. Overcrowding and poor conditions there have led to recent outbreaks of MRSA, diphtheria and scabies.
Government plans asylum overhaul
The government has said it is committed to addressing the practice of placing asylum seekers in hotels while their claims are processed.
A government spokesperson said: “The government remains committed to overhauling the broken asylum system to stop UK taxpayers spending £5.6m every day accommodating asylum seekers in hotels. The asylum system costs the UK more than £2bn every year which is completely unsustainable for the public’s finances.”