Residents fear for safety over Priti Patel's 'Guantanamo-on-Ouse' plan

Residents fear for safety over Priti Patel's 'Guantanamo-on-Ouse' plan

May 8, 2022

‘It’s the wrong plan, in the wrong place’: Furious residents say they fear for their safety amid outrage over Priti Patel’s ‘Guantanamo-on-Ouse’ plan to house 1,500 asylum seekers in sleepy Yorkshire village

  • Former RAF base in Linton-on-Ouse near York set for 1,500 asylum seekers in tiny village with 700 people
  • Residents are shocked and fear the ‘Guantanomo-on-Ouse’ that will see their sleepy home double in size 
  • Locals speak of having one shop selling mainly newspapers, no police presence and a failing sewage system 
  • They also fear hundreds of young men ‘roaming the village’ and their home turning into France’s Calais Jungle 
  • Home Office claims asylum centre will stop a reliance on £4.7m a day hotels as it starts ‘Greek’ style camps

Villagers who face being outnumbered two to one by asylum seekers say they are still in the dark about Priti Patel’s plans for a new processing centre they fear will destroy their community.

Residents in Linton-on-Ouse, which contains just 700 registered voters, have been stunned by plans to house more than 1,500 refugees at the former RAF airbase in the middle of the village.

They also speak of their concern over the lack of facilities where one shop sells mainly newspapers, there is no police presence and a ‘failing’ sewage system.

Speaking to the MailOnline residents also said it was the ‘wrong plan in the wrong place’ which will see hundreds of ‘young men roaming around the village’ and blamed Priti Patel for trying to turn their home into France’s ‘Calais Jungle’. 

The news comes as the government’s new asylum seekers policy will see people flown 4,000 miles away to Rwanda to have their claims processed following a £120 million deal with the African country.

Villagers are also backing the local council who is set to mount a legal challenge against the plan that will see locals ‘outnumbered’ two-to-one and has already instructed lawyers to prepare arguments.  

The North Yorkshire village of Linton-on-Ouse. The community of around 700 could be joined by as many as 1,500 asylum seekers housed in a reception centre in a former RAF base


Villagers such as Linda Scarbro (left) and Peter Baritt (right) are concerned by the plan to house 1,500 asylum seekers. Mrs Scarbro, 68, pictured, said the plan has come out ‘as a bolt from the blue’ while Mr Baritt says the former RAF base should be ‘returned to agriculture

Kathryn Dryden, 60, a villager for ten years, said: ‘It is lack of consultation. It is the process of what the Home Office are trying to do which we consider at unlawful at this point.’

The only shop in the village, mainly sells newspapers, and is located just a one minute walk from the former RAF base

Villagers also speak of their concern over the lack of facilities where one shop sells mainly newspapers, there is no police presence and a ‘failing’ sewage system if the asylum seekers are put in the former RAF base, pictured 

Linton-On-Ouse is located near Leeds, York and Harrogate in the north of England

The local council is set to mount a legal challenge against the plan and has already instructed lawyers to prepare arguments

Council plans legal challenge against government over plans to house 1,500 asylum seekers at former RAF base in North Yorkshire village

Hambleton District Council previously said in late April that it has asked lawyers to start mounting a legal challenge to the proposal.

Dr Justin Ives, the council’s chief executive, said the decision had been made after the Government’s decision to ‘press ahead’ with the plans despite a ‘lack of consultation’ with residents.

He said: ‘We have been carefully listening to what local communities have been saying about the potential impact on Linton-on-Ouse, surrounding communities and our district in general.

‘We now understand from subsequent conversations this week, that the Government has every intention of pressing ahead with the plans.

‘In response to this, Hambleton District Council has instructed lawyers to start work on mounting a legal challenge of the Government’s decision.’

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The asylum reception centre at Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire, will help end our reliance on expensive hotels which are costing the taxpayer £4.7 million a day.

‘We are consulting with local stakeholders about the use of the site.

‘The New Plan for Immigration will fix this broken asylum system, allowing us to support those in genuine need while preventing abuse of the system and deterring illegal entry to the UK.’

Linda Scarbro, 68, a retired librarian now a volunteer guide at local historical sites, said it is ‘not NIMBY-ism’ and said Britain is very welcoming to those in need but said it was ‘the wrong plan, in the wrong place’. 

She explained: ‘There has been no consultation. It has come as a bolt from the blue.

‘The first I knew about it was when it was announced on the local radio. The parish council knew nothing about it, nor did the District Council.

‘The key people from the village arranged a public meeting. Only a few people from the Home Office came and they declined to attend the second meeting.

‘I do not care about their race or religion. It is the fact you will have 1,500 young men roaming around the village and I don’t know what they are going to do. 

‘They are free to come and go. The Home Office cannot detain them and the airfield is not secure.

‘It is just the uncertainty. We do not know what the plans are. I just think they have not thought it through because there are so many questions they cannot give us an answer to.

‘I know of three houses in the village that we sold subject to contract before the announcement. Surprise, surprise, they are all back on the market now because the buyers dropped out over the asylum centre being here.

‘I don’t think people will be able to sell their houses. It is just wrong, totally wrong, for 1,500 single men to be put in a village of only 700.

‘These people need to be in conurbations where they have access to help and support. We have four buses a day into York and the last one is at 5 o’clock.

‘Obviously, a lot of the asylum seekers will have come from difficulty situations and they are going to be traumatised.

‘They are going to be put into what is basically a field where nothing to do and nowhere to go. As far as I am concerned, it is not good for the village.

‘It is not NIMBY-ism. Our country has always been welcoming to people in need. But it is just the wrong plan, the wrong place.’

Mrs Scarbro, who has lived in the village for nine years, added: ‘Everyone is really friendly. Everyone speaks to each other.

‘Everyone is very uneasy about what may happen. To be honest, I would be apprehensive about going out on my own.

‘I have never felt any fears about going out walking in the village. But it is just the apprehension.’

The now shut pub, the College Arms, in the North Yorkshire village of Linton-on-Ouse where villagers are terrified of ‘1,500 young men roaming around the village’ under the plans by the Home Office 

The village of Linton-on-Ouse is usually a sleepy place, but its residents are up in arms at a government plan to house over a thousand asylum seekers, whose numbers will dwarf local residents


The RAF base (left) stands amidst an empty field, only a short five minute walk from the centre of the village. A playing field (right) in the village of Linton-on-Ouse

Mrs Scarbro, who has lived in the village for nine years, added that ‘everyone is really friendly’ but would be ‘apprehensive’ being alone in the village if the plans were to go ahead 

Peter Barritt, 71, a retired transport manager, who has been to the refugee camp, Calais, known as the ‘Jungle’ in France, said ‘It is not a very nice place. I saw all these half bricks lying in the road and was told migrants had been throwing them through windscreens of lorries to get them to stop so they could steal stuff.

‘The land the base was built on should go back to the village and be returned to agriculture. I blame Priti Patel.

‘Half the people around here don’t even have burglar alarms and if you see a policeman you ask him if he is lost.

‘If you have a wife and kids it makes it even harder if you have got a lot of young single men about. You are lucky to even see a bus around here.

‘I bumped into one of the senior policemen involved and he did not even know the base was in the middle of the village. He thought it was a mile away.’

Kathryn Dryden, 60, a villager for ten years, agreed with the local council, who wants to mount a legal challenge, saying it was ‘unlawful’. 

She added: ‘It is lack of consultation. It is the process of what the Home Office are trying to do which we consider at unlawful at this point.

‘The figure of 1,500 is just a base line. It will increase. The Government is dumping them in a small rural village where they will outnumber us two to one if not more.

‘We are not against supporting asylum seekers. It is the numbers, and how it is been dealt to us as a done deal. None of us knew anything about it until it was announced on the TV.

‘We are hoping, a judicial review will succeed as a challenge but we have no idea. We do not begrudge asylum seekers. This is just a quiet village.

‘Yet the Government has been very clear it will support asylum seekers in conurbations. They will not get that in a small village.’


Ministers announced last month that a new reception centre would be opened in Linton-on-Ouse seeing 1,500 asylum seekers placed in the accommodation and processing centre. According to the Home Office it ‘will help end the government’s reliance on expensive hotels’ where tens of thousands of asylum seekers live at a cost to taxpayers of £4.7 million ($5.8 million) per day. Pictured: Left, cows graze in a field adjacent to residential properties, right is a union flag in the village of Linton-on-Ouse

Olga Matthias, a spokesperson representing residents of Linton-on-Ouse who are opposed to the proposed asylum seeker reception centre, poses for a portrait on Main Street in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, near York in northern England on May 4, 2022

Olga Matthias, a spokesperson representing residents of Linton-on-Ouse, who are opposed to the proposed asylum seeker reception centre, said: ‘1,500 people in a village of 700 seems to have an absence of proportionality.’

While another villager, Steve, 43, and Olga say they back the idea of housing refugees in their village, they cannot understand why the Home Office chose to send such a large number to Linton-on-Ouse. 

‘It’s a lose-lose scenario,’ says Steve. ‘They have a right for a peaceful life especially after the countries these people are coming from, so they have the right to be here.’

He argues the village does not have the facilities to allow its population to more than triple and said the sewage system is already failing, there is no high-speed internet and no police presence.

Another villager Matthias also said ‘there is nothing to do’ in the village which had its pub close a long time ago and where the only shop does not sell much except newspapers.

There is a bus four times a day that goes to York, the nearest large city about 10 miles (16 kilometres) away, but the price of a return ticket at £6.50 is more than an asylum seeker’s daily allowance of £5.66. 

One local, 19-year-old Mya Aston, says that for her, the prospect of 1,500 more men walking in the streets was ‘daunting’.

Another voiced concerns about how the plan might affect home prices, where the average detached house sells for nearly £350,000.

Nicola David of Ripon City of Sanctuary, a group helping refugees, said: ‘Nobody wants this. Nobody. Not the far-rights, not the villagers, not refugee charities, only the Home Office wants this to happen.’

The public debate has been dominated in recent weeks by a government proposal to send asylum seekers who arrive illegally to Rwanda.

But Ms David argues that the opening of a reception centre in Linton-on-Ouse is far more problematic, she adds: ‘The Rwanda [plan] was really shocking cause it’s massive and it’s bizarre. 

‘But the Refugee Council did some calculations and they reckon probably 200 people would get sent to Rwanda so that’s actually quite small and there is a very strong chance it won’t go ahead at all.’

She gives the example of Napier former military camp in Kent near the Channel coast, which has been used since 2020 to house asylum seekers, prompting criticism of the authorities over the squalid living conditions and migrants being held in semi-detention.

‘They’re constantly apologising and they’re constantly [holding] public inquiries that cost a fortune […] and now they think they can run [a centre] for 1,500 people […] here?

‘What assurance does anybody have that it’s not all going to go horribly wrong? And then what happens when it does?”

One local, 19-year-old Mya Aston, says that for her, the prospect of 1,500 more men walking in the streets was ‘daunting’. Pictured: A man leaves Linton Stores, the only shop in the village of Linton-on-Ouse

At the former RAF base, plans would see up to 1,500 asylum seekers placed in the accommodation and processing centre

City of York Lib Dem councillor Darryl Smalley said in April: ‘The Government’s Guantanamo-on-Ouse plan is sadly just a small part of the inhumane and dysfunctional plan. It’s a model which has been shown to be expensive for the taxpayer and is very damaging for the mental health of asylum seekers’. Pictured: Former Royal Air Force Station, RAF Linton-on-Ouse is pictured in the village of Linton-on-Ouse

Health worker Neil Goodridge, 59, also said: ‘We’re a relatively liberal country and all for helping out but migrants need to be somewhere where they will have services. This is the wrong place.’ Pictured: Cyclists make their way along Main Street in the village

City of York Lib Dem councillor Darryl Smalley said in April: ‘The Government’s Guantanamo-on-Ouse plan is sadly just a small part of the inhumane and dysfunctional plan. It’s a model which has been shown to be expensive for the taxpayer and is very damaging for the mental health of asylum seekers.

‘It’s shocking to see the stark difference between Minister’s sentiments when it comes to the suffering of those fleeing Ukraine compared with those asylum seekers desperate enough to make the dangerous journey across the Channel. It is only the accident of birth which separates us from being in the shoes of these desperate people.

‘Government policy is now seemingly to make the seeking of asylum in the United Kingdom as difficult and unpleasant as possible, regardless of the cost. This is an ill-thought out, cruel and morally bankrupt ploy to reduce our obligations to the most desperate people.’

Teaching assistant and mother-of-one Jade Bov, 49, told the Sun: ‘We’re all a bit shell-shocked. We’re just a small village with one road in and one road out. An extra 1,500 people roaming around it is going to have an impact, whatever the Home Office say.’

Health worker Neil Goodridge, 59, also said: ‘We’re a relatively liberal country and all for helping out but migrants need to be somewhere where they will have services. This is the wrong place.

‘We’re a village of 700 people and they are effectively dropping 1,500 single men here. It’s an invasion for us. Down in Westminster they’ve thought, ‘We’ve got a military base which is surrounded by fences’. But it isn’t, it’s a 760-acre open site.”

There is a bus four times a day that goes to York, the nearest large city about 10 miles (16 kilometres) away, but the price of a return ticket at £6.50 is more than an asylum seeker’s daily allowance of £5.66


Home Secretary Priti Patel is Home Secretary Priti Patel is modelling the centre on Greek asylum camps where migrants undergo routine checks of their movements and have curfews. Pictured: On left, members of the public rush to attend the public meeting regarding the proposed asylum processing centre at former RAF base, and on right villagers in the hall listen to representatives from North Yorkshire police and Thirsk and Morton MP Kevin Hollinrake

Villagers argue it does not have the facilities to allow its population to more than triple and said the sewage system is already failing, there is no high-speed internet and no police presence

The Home Office has been rolling out new migration policies, including a controversial plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, largely in response to the continued flow of migrants arriving in the UK by crossing the English Channel in small boats. Pictured: Angry and scared villagers queue for public meeting to discuss the proposed asylum processing centre at former RAF base Linton-on-Ouse

 

Around 30 more migrants were escorted to Dover, Kent by UK officials on board Border Force cutter Speedwell on Friday afternoon

More than 750 migrants have arrived in the UK by small boat so far this month, pushing the 2022 total to 7,484

Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, previously said he would ‘push for these plans to be stopped’

What is the Rwanda scheme?

What is the scheme?

The Government announced plans to send thousands of migrants to Rwanda, in east Africa, last month. 

The scheme is designed to deter economic migrants by showing even if they reach the UK, they’re not allowed to remain here. 

When they arrive in Rwanda, asylum seekers will have their claims processed and if approved, will be allowed to stay in Rwanda. They will not be allowed to return to the UK. 

Those who fail in their asylum applications will be deported back to their home country. 

Who is eligible?

People arriving in the UK illegally, including in small boats and lorries, will be considered for relocation to Rwanda.

It will apply to anyone who arrived in the UK from January 1, this year, and not just people arriving after the first flights have been arranged. 

Ministers have said the scheme is meant to be focused on single, young men, but anyone regardless of sex is eligible.

The Government says families will not be broken up and unaccompanied children will not be sent.

How much will it cost?

The Government says the scheme will cost £120 million, but critics have predicted it would cost considerably more.

Think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research pointed out that Australia’s scheme has cost taxpayers around £5.2 billion since 2013. 

Conservative former minister Andrew Mitchell said housing asylum seekers at the Ritz hotel would be cheaper, putting the figure at £2million per person, per year.

When will it start?

Boris Johnson said he wanted the first flights to leave at the end of May, but this looks unlikely to happen.

The scheme is likely to be challenged in court by human rights lawyers, but ministers believe it is legal under UK and EU laws. 

Why is it so controversial?

Human rights groups, opposition MPs and backbench Tories have said the plan is cruel and expensive.

Amnesty International says there are concerns over enforced disappearances, allegations of torture and excessive use of force’ in Rwanda. 

The Government says Rwanda is a safe country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers. 

Opposition leader Keir Starmer branded the PM ‘desperate’ and said the plans were ‘unworkable, extortionate and will cost the taxpayer billions of pounds’.

In the UK migrants will be held in ‘Greek-style reception centres’, the first of which will be built at RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

The RAF base has lain empty since 2020, when the Ministry of Defence announced it would no longer be actively using the site. 

When the RAF base was closed two years ago, 150 MoD homes at the bottom end of the village became vacant – as well as a street outside the entrance to the site.

It was expected to be sold in the coming years, but the government has now revealed a new use for the 680-acre facility.

Accommodation for asylum seekers will be set up, while a processing centre will also be built.

Under the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new policy, Channel migrants will have to stick to strict rules or else they could lose their right to asylum.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is modelling the centre on Greek asylum camps where migrants undergo routine checks of their movements and have curfews.

The reception centres were first opened on the island of Samos in September last year, before a further two were completed on Leros and Kos two months later.

The Home Secretary reportedly praised the ‘very different’ approach that had been taken to address the growing migrant crisis, which included digitising the asylum process.

‘If they breach the rules, it could affect their asylum claim,’ a government source told the Telegraph.

‘You would be told that you would have to be in by this time. That’s fair rules for operating if you provide food and accommodation. The Greeks have things like timings.’

The policy is in conjunction with he Rwanda plan. The scheme is designed to deter economic migrants by showing even if they reach the UK, they’re not allowed to remain here. 

When they arrive in Rwanda, asylum seekers will have their claims processed and if approved, will be allowed to stay in Rwanda. They will not be allowed to return to the UK. 

Those who fail in their asylum applications will be deported back to their home country.

Hambleton District Council previously said in late April that it has asked lawyers to start mounting a legal challenge to the proposal.

Dr Justin Ives, the council’s chief executive, said the decision had been made after the Government’s decision to ‘press ahead’ with the plans despite a ‘lack of consultation’ with residents.

He said: ‘We have been carefully listening to what local communities have been saying about the potential impact on Linton-on-Ouse, surrounding communities and our district in general.

‘We now understand from subsequent conversations this week, that the Government has every intention of pressing ahead with the plans.

‘In response to this, Hambleton District Council has instructed lawyers to start work on mounting a legal challenge of the Government’s decision.’

Dr Ives added: ‘As the local authority, we are extremely disappointed by the lack of consultation and involvement on this so far and have made this clear to Government during our discussions.’

Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, who is considering legal options, previously said he would ‘push for these plans to be stopped’.

Following a community meeting, Mr Hollinrake added: ‘This is not a secure facility and having such a large volume of young men being housed in Linton-on-Ouse is completely wrong.’

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The asylum reception centre at Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire, will help end our reliance on expensive hotels which are costing the taxpayer £4.7 million a day.

‘We are consulting with local stakeholders about the use of the site.

‘The New Plan for Immigration will fix this broken asylum system, allowing us to support those in genuine need while preventing abuse of the system and deterring illegal entry to the UK.’

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