Armed forces personnel lives in 'peril' if asylum centre goes ahead, MP says
The lives of current and former armed forces personnel could be in "peril" if Government plans for an asylum centre in North Yorkshire go ahead, the area's MP has warned.
A disused RAF base in the village of Linton-on-Ouse is set to open as an accommodation centre for seekers by the end of the month. An initial group of 60 people is expected to take up residence, but the facility could ultimately house up to 1,500.
Speaking out against the "half-baked" plan in a Commons debate, Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake said the village currently only has a population of around 600 and is the "wrong location".
He said: "People do not feel safe. And some of those ... I think those fears are rational. I don't think they're irrational fears.
"In any cohort of 1,500 young, single men, you're going to get some who do not play by the rules. The vast majority will, but that's very little comfort to people who are genuinely in fear of their lives and their wellbeing.
"I've had children as young as nine writing to me, meeting me at these public meetings, saying how panic-stricken they are."
Addressing concerns for armed forces personnel who own a home in the area, he said: "There is very little chance of selling any house in Linton-on-Ouse at the moment.
"So, you're basically saying to service personnel, or former service personnel, who live in the village, and it's commonly known where they live, and there may be that people hold a grudge, some of the service users may hold a grudge against service personnel who've fought in Iraq and elsewhere, that grudge that may be held against them, may put their own lives at peril."
He added the site goes against Home Office stating there should be one asylum seeker per 200 people.
"This is not just about it not being right for the residents," he told MPs, pointing to a lack of suitable services or infrastructure, and saying "it's not right for the asylum seekers either".
He described the Home Office's approach "as pretty much an abuse of power" and "ill-informed in terms of the issues we see on the ground".
He acknowledged that he did not know how long the site could be based there but estimated "people's lives are going to be blighted for a decade at least".
He said if the Government would not change course, Hambleton District Council would bring a legal challenge.
Responding for the Government, Home Office minister Kevin Foster said: "This is not a decision that Government has taken lightly but the need for action to reform our asylum system is abundantly clear.
"Part of that does include accommodation centres and this Government will not shy away from taking the necessary steps to fix our broken asylum system, and to ensure that we have an accommodation system which is no longer reliant on hotels as the default option."
He added that the Government recognises the need for "an open dialogue with the local community".