24 organisations write to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Defence calling on them to scrap all plans for asylum accommodation centres, following the decision to withdraw the planned site at Linton-on-Ouse.
The Home Office recently confirmed that the planned asylum accommodation centre on the RAF base at Linton-on-Ouse will not go ahead, after the Ministry of Defence withdrew permission for use of the site. This followed months of hard work by campaigners and sustained local opposition including tireless campaigning by residents, and opposition from the District Council and constituency MP.
Following this decision, we have written to the Home Office and Ministry of Defence jointly with 23 other organisations calling on their departments to scrap the wider policy to open such centres in other locations in the United Kingdom.
Read coverage of the letter in the Yorkshire Post.
The plan for Linton-on-Ouse was wholly unsuitable, but while the Home Office has stated it will continue to attempt to identify ‘appropriate alternative sites’, we are clear – people seeking asylum should be housed in communities, not camps.
We will continue to campaign against these plans. Find out more and join us.
The full text of the letter is below, alongside the complete list of signatories.
Re: decision on proposed facility at Linton-on-Ouse and asylum accommodation centres
Dear Secretaries of State,
We write to you following the decision to withdraw the proposal for an asylum accommodation centre on the RAF base at Linton-on-Ouse. While we welcome this decision, we do not believe the site should ever have been under consideration and we urge your departments to review and withdraw the wider policy to open such centres in other locations in the United Kingdom.
The plan for the site at Linton-on-Ouse was wholly unsuitable. Warehousing up to 1,500 people in a rural ex-military camp, without easy means of accessing support, would have caused serious harm to people fleeing war and persecution and damaged community relations. As you are aware, the plan met with strong opposition from local residents, the District Council, the constituency MP, refugee support organisations and people with experience of the asylum system. We believe the concerns that underpinned this opposition were entirely justified, and are pleased that the decision has been made not to press ahead with the use of the site.
We note however the Home Office’s stated intention to continue to pursue accommodation centres and identify ‘appropriate alternative sites’, and the Defence Secretary’s comments that other Ministry of Defence sites were offered. But we are clear: there are not, and never will be, ‘appropriate’ sites for centres such as these, in Linton or any other community.
If these centres go ahead, people seeking asylum will find themselves warehoused in prison-like conditions without adequate advice, healthcare, or support. These centres will re-traumatise people, and are being planned with no consideration of the needs of people seeking asylum or local communities. The experience at Linton-on-Ouse, as was the case at Penally and Napier, shows that segregating people in this way, and planning and announcing such facilities without consultation, inevitably leads to community tensions and targeting by the far right, putting at risk both local residents and the people intended to be housed in these facilities.
The use of hotels and barracks as ‘emergency’ asylum accommodation is rooted in the Home Office’s failure to make timely and accurate decisions on asylum claims. It is emblematic of a wider asylum accommodation system run for profit and characterised by inadequate partnership working and resourcing for local and devolved authorities.
People seeking asylum should be housed in communities, not camps. They need safety, stability and support to rebuild their lives, and local communities require consultation, resources and information in order to welcome them.
We urge you to learn the lessons of this failed experiment at Linton-on-Ouse and scrap the plans for accommodation centres. With the introduction of a new asylum dispersal system, you now have an opportunity to pursue a different approach, one in which people are accommodated in flats and houses in the community, and their neighbours and local services are enabled to welcome them.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this further. Finally, we wish to confirm that it is our intention to publish this letter.
Paul Hook, Director, Asylum Matters
Alison Pickup, Director, Asylum Aid
Kat Lorenz, Director, Asylum Support Appeals Project
Miranda Reilly, Director, Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees
Annie Viswanathan, Director, Bail for Immigration Detainees
Beth Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, Bristol Refugee Rights
Siân Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary UK
Jonathan Ellis, Project Director, The Detention Forum
Anna Miller, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Doctors of the World UK
Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive, Freedom from Torture
Kerry Smith, Chief Executive, Helen Bamber Foundation
Paola Uccellari, Interim Executive Director, JCWI
Sarah Teather, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service UK
Linton-on-Ouse Action Group
Emma Ginn, Director, Medical Justice
Bridget Young, Director, NACCOM
Sonia Lenegan, Legal and Policy Director, Rainbow Migration
Tim Naor Hilton, Chief Executive, Refugee Action
Tamsin Baxter, Executive Director of External Affairs, Refugee Council
Savan Qadir, Project Manager, Refugees For Justice
Nicola David, Chair, Ripon City of Sanctuary
Emily Crowley, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees
Andrea Cleaver, Chief Executive, Welsh Refugee Council
Alphonsine Kabagabo, Director, Women for Refugee Women