‘Yorkshire Guantanamo’ residents urge Rishi Sunak to open his swimming pool to migrants

Rural village set to house 1,500 asylum seekers under UK government plans

The British government plans to move 1,500 asylum seekers to the rural village of Linton-on-Ouse, near York, northern England, within weeks. AFP
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Residents in a rural village, dubbed "Yorkshire Guantanamo" by a local councillor, are urging UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to open up his new swimming pool and gardens to 1,500 asylum seekers.

Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire has been chosen, without consultation, by the government to house 1,500 asylum seekers, despite having only 800 residents.

Despite objections to the announcement, Home Office officials met local councillors last week and told them the decision was final.

Mr Sunak was last year granted permission to build a swimming pool, gym and tennis courts in a paddock at his multimillion-pound vicarage in nearby Kirby Sigston, near Northallerton.

Some residents have written to Mr Sunak, inviting him to open up parts of his property to the asylum seekers.

“As you are probably aware, Linton-on-Ouse will have 1,500 new residents soon, and we have really limited activities for them," said the letter, which has been seen by The Yorkshire Post newspaper. It goes on to mention the role played by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel in the decision.

“The young men that Priti and Boris will be housing here will have virtually no money and nothing to do, so we want to offer a warm welcome to these refugees and help them integrate into UK society, just as your parents and Priti’s parents were welcomed and offered opportunities," the letter said.

“So we thought of you, given that there are no facilities in Linton-in-Ouse for the 1,500 young men and you’re just a short bus journey away.

“We understand that you’ve recently built a pool and a gym; this would be a great Northern welcome to help make the men feel safe and happy. If they could spend the day here, we can send them with a packed lunch.”

The Home Office has said the asylum seekers will move to the village within weeks.

More than 1,500 single men seeking asylum will be housed in the former RAF base in the village, where Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, trained.

Councillor Darryl Smalley has labelled the scheme “Guantanamo-on-Ouse" and demanded the government backtrack on its plan, calling it "ill thought out".

The Home Office has said the site will contain healthcare and leisure facilities, including a football pitch, library and cinema.

“Those living at the site will be free to come and go but are expected to be on site overnight,” the Home Office said.

“If anyone has not returned by 10pm, a safeguarding call will be made to them. This is not under curfew conditions; it is based on following up on the safety and welfare of the individual.

“There will be on-site recreational and cultural activities.”

Ministers said the centre would "provide safe and self-sufficient accommodation".

Hambleton Council chief executive Dr Justin Ives told the BBC that the men will be moved in within weeks.

"In the Home Office's opinion, the decision to host the centre there is final, subject to them being satisfied that it can be operated safely," he said.

"From a practical basis, they hope to have people there within the next four to six weeks. It will start off with 100 asylum seekers and the maximum they envisage at the site will be 1,500."

The move to house asylum seekers in Yorkshire is part of an overhaul of the UK's immigration system, which includes plans to send some migrants to Rwanda.

Under the programme, anyone deemed to have arrived in the UK “illegally” would be sent to the African nation.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said she will use “every tool and every piece of legislation at our disposal” to remove migrants who arrive in the UK illegally.

She said the government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda would send a “clear signal” on its immigration policies.

Updated: May 16, 2022, 11:58 AM
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