UK immigration minister refuses to back down on ‘Yorkshire Guantanamo’ plans

Politicians seek legal action against asylum assessment centre

A community in Yorkshire, northern England, opposes plans to open an asylum seeker assessment centre at a former air force base. PA

A last-ditch effort to have UK government plans to house 1,500 asylum seekers in a rural English village scrapped has failed, politicians said.

Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake met Immigration Minister Kevin Foster to urge a U-turn on plans to turn a former RAF base at Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire into a processing centre.

He said Mr Foster refused, and the Home Office intends to open the centre within weeks.

Now, Mr Hollinrake and local councillors want to challenge the decision at the highest legal levels.

“Along with the leader of Hambleton Council, Councillor Mark Robson, I have met with the immigration minister and Home Office officials regarding the proposed asylum site in Linton-on-Ouse,” Mr Hollinrake said.

“We have made clear during a very frank exchange of views we need to go back to the drawing board on this. I have raised this with the prime minister earlier this week, as well as meeting with and writing to the home secretary last week.

“Unfortunately, the Home Office have made clear its intention to press ahead with the plans.”

It should not be the case that availability alone determine the site's suitability, he said.

“Nevertheless, it does appear the Home Office will proceed with the plans without pause for reflection.

“As such, Cllr Robson and I will explore options, including legal challenge.”

The plan was described by a councillor in the city of York, about 19 kilometres away, as “Guantanamo-on-Ouse”.

Residents of the village, which has a population of about 1,000, reacted angrily after being told of the decision last week.

It will bring more than 1,500 single men seeking asylum to the former RAF base where Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, trained.

Justin Ives, Hambleton District Council’s chief executive, said the council has instructed lawyers to mount a case.

“My team has been working tirelessly, since the government announced their plans for a centre for asylum seekers at Linton-on-Ouse, to fully understand the proposals and potential ramifications from both a local authority and the local community’s perspective,” he said.

“We have also 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 to the government’s decision.

“I know there are great concerns about this proposal and the lack of consultation, but we as a council are determined to take whatever course of action is required to secure the best possible outcome for our district.”

Almost 2,000 people have signed a petition to ban the centre from opening.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 1:21 PM
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