Robert Jenrick announces new migrant housing in the PM’s constituency
Robert Jenrick today faced a backlash from Conservative MPs over plans to use military bases to house asylum seekers. The Immigration Minister announced in the Commons that RAF Wethersfield in Essex and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire would be used as accommodation for migrants despite Cabinet opposition.
But former home secretary Priti Patel suggested the disused Wethersfield site, near her Witham constituency, would not be a suitable location due to a lack of infrastructure and amenities.
She said: “This is a very, very difficult and sensitive subject and, if I may, the points I would like to make very much refer to the previous policy – New Plan for Immigration, Greek-style reception centres – had we had those in place, I think the minister would recognise this, we would not be in this current situation.”
She added: “Can I ask why it is deemed appropriate for asylum seeker accommodation to be placed in a rural village in Essex with single men where there is no infrastructure, no amenities, but it was not appropriate for somewhere like Linton-on-Ouse?”
Plans for similar accommodation at an RAF base in the North Yorkshire village were abandoned last year after a backlash.
Meanwhile, senior Conservative Sir Edward Leigh said an injunction will be sought against the “thoroughly bad decision” in Lincolnshire.
The Gainsborough MP added: “Lincolnshire will fight and Lincolnshire will be proved right.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly reluctantly accepted defeat over plans to house migrants at the Wethersfield site in his Braintree constituency despite him arguing it “wasn’t appropriate for asylum accommodation”.
In a statement this afternoon, Mr Cleverly acknowledged the decision “isn’t the result my constituents and I wanted”.
He said: “The Home Office has confirmed that the former MDP Wethersfield will become a temporary asylum reception centre.
“Although this decision isn’t the result my constituents and I wanted, I have received assurances that community safety will remain paramount.
“I have made my views on the site clear from the beginning. My views, and those of local residents were taken into account by the Home Office and considerable mitigations for the local community will be put in place.
“That will include 24/7 security on site and new funding for local services.
“Ultimately the best way to reduce reliance on these facilities is to reduce illegal migration. That’s what the Illegal Migration Bill will achieve.”
He said he would work with Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Mr Jenrick “to make sure that the centre does not have an adverse impact on the community”.
Mr Jenrick confirmed that up to 3,700 people will be housed at RAF Wethersfield and RAF Scampton, with an extra 1,200 going to a separate site in East Sussex which is understood to be a former prison in Bexhill that went on to be used as a training facility by the United Arab Emirates.
The immigration minister the new sites “are undoubtedly in the national interest” to reduce the reliance on hotels.
He added: “We have to deliver them if we are to stop the use of hotels. We have to deliver them to save the British public from spending eye-watering amounts accommodating illegal migrants.”
Mr Jenrick said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was “bringing forward proposals” to use the Catterick Garrison barracks to house asylum seekers in his constituency to show “leadership”.
The immigration minister also confirmed on Wednesday the Government is “continuing to explore the possibility” of using ferries and barges.
But Conservative former minister Jackie Doyle-Price questioned whether proposals to house migrants on barges could harm port-based businesses.
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