Villagers at war over plans to house asylum seekers in military bases

Villagers at war over plans to house asylum seekers in military bases

March 30, 2023

Villagers at war with the government over plans to house asylum seekers in military bases including iconic Dambusters former RAF airfield

  • Residents across UK are angry at plans to house asylum seekers in military bases
  • The iconic Dambusters former RAF airfield in Lincolnshire is among the sites 

Residents across the country are up in arms at plans to turn disused former military bases into detention centres housing thousands of asylum seekers.

Sites as varied as RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, Bexhill in East Sussex, Catterick in North Yorkshire and Wethersfield in Essex have all been earmarked as locations to accommodate large groups of migrants.

The plan for Scampton – former base to the Dambusters and the Red Arrows – has already jeopardised a £300m regeneration project at the airfield announced earlier this month.

Sarah Carter, 47, spokesperson for SOS Save Our Scampton campaign said she was delighted when West Lindsey Council announced the regeneration project on March 3.

The professional cake decorator is one of more than 600 people living in former RAF married quarters housing on the base which sits cheek-by-jowl along the wire of the area earmarked for the asylum seekers.

Residents across the country are up in arms at plans to turn disused former military bases into detention centres housing thousands of asylum seekers

‘The regeneration plan would have revitalised this whole area and provided loads of jobs in aerospace and education, as well as preserving the history and legacy of RAF Scampton.

READ MORE HERE:  Council applies for listed status for Dambusters’ officers’ mess at RAF Scampton in bid to block government plans to turn base into asylum seeker detention centre 

‘But it was only the next day that the news leaked out about the detention centre, and yesterday it was confirmed. People here are scared – not only about their own security, but what will happen to their house prices and the local economy.

‘We feel our future has been sacrificed to make way for this badly-thought out scheme without any consultation with local people. The asylum seeker charities don’t want to see people placed here either – it makes no sense.’

She added that people are angry about the way the details of the plan leaked out.

‘Initially we were told 200 people, then it became 1,500, and the documents we saw yesterday mentioned a possible total of 2,000, which is more than three times how many people live here at the moment.’

Elsewhere, another detention centre is to be located at an area of a former prison and ex-RAF base in Bexhill, East Sussex.

The run-down accommodation is surrounded by four-metre high fencing and has been empty for several years.

It was last used by military students from the United Arab Emirates who were studying in colleges across Sussex and Kent.

Residents who live on the private Northeye Estate have bought their homes – former MOD properties – and love living there.

The plan for RAF Scampton – former base to the Dambusters and the Red Arrows – has apparently jeopardised a £300m regeneration project at the airfield announced earlier this month

 Local residents stand outside RAF Scampton today as they voice their disapproval at putting asylum seekers on the historic home of the Dambusters

They are angry with the Government and claim there has been a complete lack of consultation on the proposals.

Lisa Marchant, 41, a mother-of-two whose property backs onto the fencing of the former prison, said: ‘There has been absolutely no consultation with the residents who live here and this plan has just been bulldozed through. I’m annoyed to be frank.’

Mrs Marchant, a global reception manager, says she will join forces with other residents to oppose the plans.

‘We’ve been told nothing and there are a lot of unknowns. I know these migrants have to go somewhere but it is clear this is not the right site.’

One of the largest detention centres is tipped for Catterick, North Yorkshire. 

Local resident Nadine Davies, 33, works at Screwfix and has lived in Catterick all her life.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick laid out the plans in the House of Commons on Wednesday, as the government looks to slash its £6million-a-day hotel bill 

Ms Davies said: ‘It is an awful idea. If they are going to be roaming and streets, we’ve got a lot of women and children here, and it their intentions are not right, then that could cause problems.

‘Will they be staying in secure accommodation, or will they be roaming the streets? That is the question.

‘The problem is that it is going to cause riots. People are going to protest.

‘There are a lot of farmers around here, who won’t want the asylum seekers here.’

Army veteran Stephen Bagguley, 49, served in the Royal Dragoon Guards for 24 years, including two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Stephen said:’Is it going to be good for the economy? There is a potential for crime.

‘What can they bring to the garrison? There could be a security issue, though the garrison has got a lot of good CCTV coverage. It will probably test the security of the garrison, in my opinion.

The Government has also said it wants to put migrants onto offshore barges, similar to the one pictured here 

‘I think all the barracks in Catterick are pretty much occupied, so I’m not sure where they are going to go.’

Elsewhere, residents of England’s ‘most photogenic’ village have condemned a Home Office plan to turn a nearby RAF base into a centre for asylum seekers, claiming ‘it just won’t work’.

With its village green, duck pond, hump-back bridge, colour-washed cottages and a windmill, Finchingfield in Essex has won awards for its traditional picturesque setting.

But now villagers have united in their ‘anger’ to government plans to transform dormant RAF Wethersfield just two miles away into a sprawling asylum seeker reception camp that will house up to 1,500.

Residents claim the recently announced plan is completely unviable as the rural area lacks the basic infrastructure to house so many ‘bored single men with no money and nothing to do’.

Jackie Braithwaite, landlady of the Finchingfield Lion pub, told MailOnline:

‘To dump 1,500 people with nothing to do and no jobs here in the middle of nowhere, it’s horrific.

‘There are no facilities, no public transport and no shops. It just won’t work.’

Paul Pilgrim, of the George pub in nearby Shafford added: ‘It’s not the right place. There is not the infrastructure for an increase in traffic, staff and residents.’

Charities said the military accommodation is ‘grossly inadequate’ to house people who have fled war.

Senior Conservative and local MP Sir Edward Leigh responded by saying an injunction will be sought against the ‘thoroughly bad decision’ in Lincolnshire, after a similar threat came from Essex.

Sir Edward, a former minister who represents Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, said using the former home of the Dambusters RAF squadron could jeopardise a £300 million regeneration project.

Addressing Mr Jenrick, the MP said: ‘I can inform him that the moment this is confirmed the local authority in West Lindsey will issue an immediate judicial review and injunction against this thoroughly bad decision which is not based on good governance but the politics of trying to do something.’

The Home Office plan was announced as a ‘temporary’ three-year measure, but she said: ‘They can always extend it, and in any case, the momentum that was necessary to bring together the regeneration plan won’t be there any more in three years time.’

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