Government criticised over its “secretive” five year asylum plans for Braintree
Politics / Tue 15th Aug 2023 at 03:29pm
FORMER Home Secretary Priti Patel has criticised the Government for being “secretive” over its plans to house asylum seekers at the former RAF base in Braintree reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
The Witham MP has said the Government has to be transparent over the length of time they expect the Wethersfield site to be used for asylum accommodation, following reports this weekend that the Home Office is planning to use the site for five years.
The Daily Telegraph reports refer to internal Home Office documents, produced prior to the use of the site being announced, suggesting that the site will be needed for five years to provide value for money.
But the Home Office has not stated publicly how long they plan to use the site for despite being pressed for clarity over their plans.
Ms Patel, who has written to the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick about this, said: “The Home Office are being evasive over their plans for the future of Wethersfield. They’ve bypassed the usual planning requirements by claiming the site is being used temporarily for emergency purposes and now we see that they have been planning to use the site for five years.
“The lack of transparency, clarity and accountability is staggering and this must change. The local community and service providers in this part of Essex need to know how long Wethersfield will be accommodating asylum seekers and what financial support they will be provided with over this period. The Home Office cannot get away with fobbing people off and they must come clean on their plans.”
The Government argue accommodating up to 1,700 migrants at the former RAF base will be cheaper than hotels. But internal Home Office memos showed that “value for money” will only be met if the base is used for at least five years.
The home secretary used “emergency” planning contingencies to win permission for the development, but this only allows for a 12-month use.
Braintree Council in the meantime has been given permission to progress with a Judicial Review of the decision by the Home Office to use RAF Wethersfield. The council challenged them on their proposed use and proposed development, the need for planning permission to be obtained and the Home Office failure to take a range of matters into account as part of their decision making process, including the conflict with the local plan, health care, traffic implications and wastewater.
The council was granted permission to proceed with the judicial review on challenges relating to the Environmental Impact Assessment direction, reliance on the use of permitted development rights (Class Q) and the Equality Impact Assessment.
Despite the legal process, the Home Office is continuing to press ahead with its plan and on July 13 announced they started to house asylum seekers on site.
Ms Patel in her letter to the Government added that the the latest version of its fact sheet on Wethersfield refers to a temporary use but offers nothing on how long that will be, stating only it will be kept under “constant review”.
She added: “This suggests that the Government is being secretive about its intentions, but the local community and partners need to know what the Government’s plans are.
“In planning terms the temporary Class Q use is for 12 months only but it seems that the Government are intending on using the site for longer than that.”
The Government has said Wethersfield is one of several alternative accommodation sites the government is using as part of its work to move to “a more orderly, cost effective and sustainable system for accommodating asylum seekers, which not only is more manageable for communities but will also help reduce the incentives for people to travel through safe countries”.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, said in an earlier statement “Those individuals who have entered the UK illegally shouldn’t be given hotel accommodation at great expense to the taxpayer. That’s why our large disused military sites and vessels will provide basic and functional accommodation for small boat arrivals whilst we pursue their removal.
“We have committed substantial financial support to local councils and we remain committed to working with key stakeholders to ensure these sites have as little impact as possible for communities.
“Ultimately the best way to relieve pressures on communities is to stop the boats in the first place. Our Stop the Boats Bill will ensure illegal entrants to the UK can be detained and swiftly removed.”
The Home Office has been asked to comment on Ms Patel’s claims.
Our sympathy should be with the residents of Braintree. Harlow was similarly threatened earlier this year with being compelled to take almost 500 illegal migrants at the new residential development at Wych Elm. Fortunately, thanks to vigorous opposition by our Council and our MP, Robert Halfon, the Home Office backed down. It is worrying that this could have been inflicted on Harlow.
Refugee Council states that for the year ending March 2023 some 73% of asylum seekers were granted protected status, which means their claims for asylum were valid. Strange how the word "illegal" keeps getting used yet it takes the Home Office ages to process claims. See Refugee Council key facts at https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/information/refugee-asylum-facts/top-10-facts-about-refugees-and-people-seeking-asylum/
We should be concerned by the illegal decisions made by the Home Office with regards to family reunions using the so-called legal safe routes. As the Guardian newspaper reported in June: "Campaigners have raised concerns about the high proportion of genuine refugees seeking family reunion whose cases are initially rejected by the Home Office but later overturned on appeal. This is despite the fact that this group is using the ‘safe and legal routes’ touted by the home secretary. Data obtained via freedom of information request by the charity Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (Ramfel) showed that 1,386 refugee family reunion applications rejected by the Home Office were overturned on appeal between 2019 and 2022. That represents 66% of the total of 2,106." See Guardian article at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/26/campaigners-alarmed-by-rejection-of-refugees-using-safe-and-legal-routes
I feel sorry for our young who can't get a home.There isn't enough housing for locals let alone any one else. It seems crime does pay after all .. With over one million on the housing waiting list it must feel so unfair.