A disused RAF base in northern England will take its first asylum seekers by the end of the month, the local council has said.
The decision to accommodate and process asylum seekers at the RAF barracks in Yorkshire was announced last month.
Hambleton District Council said it asked the Home Office to pause the controversial proposal “immediately” following opposition from residents in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, about 18 kilometres from the city of York.
Campaigners have called the centre the 'Yorkshire Guantanamo', a reference to the US military detention centre on Cuba.
The Home Office said the centre will provide “safe and cost-effective” accommodation for single adult males who are claiming asylum in the UK and meet the relevant suitability criteria.
According to The Times, the reception centre will hold 500 migrants in its first year, with a total capacity of 1,500. In 2020, the village had an estimated population of about 800.
Hambleton council previously announced it was seeking a judicial review of the plans, and said it has now appointed a legal team.
“At a meeting late this morning, we, along with the PFCC (Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner) and local MP have been told by the Home Office that they intend for 60 people to arrive at the centre at the end of this month,” said Cllr Mark Robson, leader of the council.
“We have in the strongest possible terms asked that the Home Office pause this proposal immediately to allow for consultation to be carried out and are awaiting their response to this ask.
“As leader of this council I am in no doubt about how much worry and concern there is in the local community and the surrounding areas about the government’s proposal for a centre for asylum seekers in Linton-on-Ouse,” Cllr Robson said.
“I know people are understandably concerned and want answers as quickly as possible, and I want to be clear that we are working to get these answers as quickly as we possibly can, given the legal process which is under way.”
The Home Office said it was “engaging with local stakeholders”.
“The asylum reception centre at Linton-on-Ouse will help end our reliance on expensive hotels which are costing the taxpayer almost £5 million a day,” a Home Office representative said.
“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.”