Council leader wades into asylum seeker facility row

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Plans to house hundreds of asylum seekers in temporary cabins just outside a small Hampshire village have been condemned by both the local MP and residents as being 'incredibly dangerous'. The Home Office is considering plans to build accommodation for up to 500 asylum seekers on Ministry of Defence (MoD) land on the outskirts of Barton Stacey near Winchester.

The site is on the outskirts of the village of Barton Stacey Credit: Bing

The leader of Hampshire County Council is urging the government to reconsider plans.

The Home Office wants to temporarily house people there who will be provided with accommodation and three meals a day. The asylum seekers will not be detained but will have to sign in and out of the site. Since the site is Crown land, the government can carry outthe scheme by using emergency planning powers.

The local council and local MP are now working together to try to stop the plan.

We are right next to the A303. It’s going to be poor accommodation. There’s going to be some dining and recreational facilities here but not going to be a lot for people to do.

The nearest facilities are in Barton Stacey where there is a post office and general store, but the nearest facility is the service station here on the A303, and the only way you are going to get there is to walk along the side of the carriageway and I think that’s incredibly dangerous.

Councillor Phil North, Leader, Test Valley Borough Council, Conservative

I was shocked the Home Office thought that this was either a good idea in principle, or a suitable location. To put this sort of temporary camp by the side of a dual carriageway, where the only local retail outlet is the service station, 400 metres away - I can see this as a recipe for disaster and a real risk to highway safety

This is described as an open camp so the people there will be free to come and go, but I’ve been told there will be a 10pm curfew very unclear how that is planned to be enforced. I can just envisage asylum seekers arriving here in the middle of nowhere with easy access to London from the A303 where they will start hitchhiking.

Caroline Nokes MP, Romsey & Southampton North

Meanwhile, refugee charities say people seeking asylum need somewhere to live and should be housed in our communities. However, charities that support asylum seekers have also expressed concern that the sitewill be nothing more than an open prison.

It’s much better for them to be integrated into the local community, for them to be in much better accommodation which is suitable where they can cook their own food where they can integrate go to local shops access education opportunities locally, rather than being placed into what is effectively a prison camp.

Bridget Chapman, Kent Refugee Action Network

A Home Office spokesperson issued the following statement:

We plan to fix our broken asylum system to make it firm and fair - compassionate to those fleeing oppression, persecution and tyranny but tough on those who abuse our system.

Given pressure on the system during these unprecedented times, we have worked tirelessly with local authorities and other partners to provide asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, with suitable accommodation – as we are required to do by law

Following a review of available government property, the MOD offered temporary use of some of its sites. This includes Barton Stacey and we are engaging with leaders and officials at Test Valley and Hampshire councils, local MPs, the police and health services, among others, as we continue to explore this as an option.

Home Office spokesperson

A petition against the plans set up 2 days ago and has 2,000 signatures. The Home Office is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.