What is the Linton-on-Ouse asylum centre plan and why is it controversial?

Linton asylum centre protest banner
Villagers in Linton-on-Ouse confronted Home Office officials at a meeting about the plans. Credit: PA

Plans for what the Government has called an "asylum accommodation centre" in a North Yorkshire village have sparked major controversy.

The facility, in Linton-on-Ouse, will form part of an overhaul of the immigration system announced by the Government in April, which will also see some who are seeking asylum flown to Rwanda for processing.

Ahead of a public meeting in Linton on Thursday, 19 May, Home Office sources provided more details about what is being proposed.

What is the Linton-on-Ouse plan?

The plan will see the former RAF base in Linton used to house up to 1,500 asylum seekers.

They will be people who have arrived in Britain on boats and are expected to be mostly men, aged 18 to 40. The Home Office says they will be "low needs", rather than "high dependency", individuals. They will have their claims processed on site.

The Home Office says the residents of the site will be "fed and watered" and there will be facilities to support them, including a sports hall, a faith centre, a library, a television room, IT equipment and legal consultation.

A view of RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire Credit: PA

There will be one bathroom for every five residents.

The residents will be "non detained", meaning they can move around freely, and there will be minibuses to transport them to and from places like York.

The facility will be managed by security company Serco and there will be round-the-clock CCTV.

When will it open?

The centre is likely to open by 31 May, although it is understood the date could slip if the facility is not ready.

Around 60 asylum seekers are expected to arrive initially, with a maximum number of 1,500 there at any one time.

The Home Office says each individual will be at Linton for a maximum of six months before their claims are accepted or rejected. Officials say, once the claims have been processed, they will be moved into "dispersed accommodation" – at sites across the country.

Why is the Government doing this?

Cost-saving is a primary reason. The system of keeping asylum seekers in hotels is said to cost around £4.7m a day.

The Home Office has not said what level of cost-saving accommodation centres like Linton will provide, but says they will offer a much more efficient way of processing claims and relieve much of the burden on taxpayers.

And they form part of the broader changes to immigration policy which the Government says are designed to deter gangs of people traffickers and reduce the number of people trying to enter the UK illegally.

Why is it so controversial?

Two reasons: consultation, or lack of it, and location.

Local councillors and even the local MP, Kevin Hollinrake, say they were completely wrong-footed when the plan was revealed in the middle of April, especially given the prospect of the site opening within weeks.

Secondly, there has been anger at the fact that the size of the village, which currently has around 600 residents, could almost quadruple, with no guarantee of additional infrastructure or facilities to support the new, larger population.

Villagers in Linton-on-Ouse are up in arms Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The Government says the 1,500 figure is a maximum that may never be reached and they are in consultation with local agencies about what additional support may be needed.

As well as residents, including some who have raised concerns about the effect on the housing market, humanitarian groups have called the plan "cruel".

What happens next?

Local councillors have suggested making a legal challenge and Kevin Hollinrake has said he has spoken to "every relevant minister" to call for the plan to be dropped. But the MP has admitted that, short of standing in the way of buses transporting people to the site, there is little he can do.