Councils fear local services will not cope with planned asylum centres

Three councils in the areas where
accommodation centres for asylum seekers are to be sited have
raised concerns about their suitability.

Home office minister Lord Rooker announced
last week the government was to apply for planning permission to
build centres at three sites: the Defence Storage and Distribution
Centre in Bicester, Oxfordshire; RAF Newton, Nottinghamshire, and
Throckmorton Airfield in Worcestershire.

But Throckmorton local councillor and resident
Liz Tucker said the move would be “ghettoising people into the
middle of nowhere”.

It is envisaged there will be around 750
people housed in the centre but Tucker warned that Throckmorton
only had a population of 170, of whom 30 were in a residential home
for older people.

The facilities in the village amounted to a
post box, telephone box and parish shed, and the nearest village
shops were two miles away, she said. “We are simply saying
Throckmorton is not a suitable place.”

Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire council leader,
Mick Warner said he also had doubts about RAF Newton’s

“It is remote and although the government has
said that facilities will be provided on-site it seems inevitable
that there will be implications for our services such as education,
social services and transportation, as well as for health services,
and so on,” he said.

He urged the Home Office to talk with the
council and other service providers to explain their plans, but
also to hear their views.

Oxfordshire Council leader Keith Mitchell
raised similar concerns, saying a large number of asylum seekers
would be placed in an “isolated rural location without access to
good transport or community facilities”.

It was also unclear whether children’s
education would be provided in schools or on-site, according to
deputy leader of the council Margaret Godden.

“Clearly there are benefits for asylum
seekers’ children integrating into a community school and having
the opportunity to learn English but there will have to be
resources made available if this is the government’s plan,” Godden

Other organisations have also voiced concerns.
Chief executive of the Refugee Council Nick Hardwick said: “The
experience of similar centres on the continent, which are away from
urban centres and where everything is provided on-site, is that
asylum seekers become very isolated and institutionalised and those
who are allowed to stay have huge problems integrating.”

The Home Office is continuing to evaluate
sites in Glamorgan, Edinburgh and Lincolnshire, as they are looking
for a fourth centre. A Home Office spokesperson said the trial
would work alongside the existing dispersal system. But, if the
centres proved successful, the idea could be rolled out to around
15 centres.

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