WEEKS of controversy have followed the Government's announcement last month that an asylum centre housing up to 1,500 male migrants will be created at the former RAF base at Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire.

Here, we take a look at what's happened since the plans were unveiled in early April and outline what is expected of the centre, why it is necessary and why residents are so worried about it.

What will the centre look like?

The former Linton-on-Ouse RAF base will undergo an extensive programme of refurbishment, with asylum seekers being moved into completed rooms while work continues elsewhere on the site.

This means it could take several months for the base to reach its full capacity of 1,500 as men are moved into the accommodation incrementally.

Individuals will share bedrooms as lessons have been learnt from the controversial Napier barracks in Kent whose dormitory-style accommodation was ruled by a High Court judge last summer as failing to meet minimum standards.

At Linton it is expected that there will be two to three men per bedroom, with some bedrooms boasting en-suite facilities.

Where bathroom facilities are shared, there will not be more than five men to one bathroom.

It’s understood that homes within the village formerly used as RAF accommodation are not part of the centre plans and will not be housing migrants.

The Northern Echo: The RAF station at Linton-on-Ouse was shut in 2020 by the Ministry of Defence Picture: PAThe RAF station at Linton-on-Ouse was shut in 2020 by the Ministry of Defence Picture: PA

What facilities will it have?

There are plans to create a sports hall, a faith centre, library and TV room.

Residents will have access to telephones and IT equipment to help them contact solicitors and relevant officials about their asylum claim.

It’s understood that special buses will be laid on to take the men to surrounding areas like York to help them get a better understanding of their new environment.

Who will be sent there and why?

It will house men aged from 18 to 40 who have predominantly arrived into the UK via boats across the Channel.

They are expected to come mainly from the Middle-East and Africa, with some being flown in from Rwanda.

The men will be sent to the centre while their asylum applications are processed on site, with the aim being that no resident is living on the base for longer than six months.

If their application for asylum is approved, they will be dispersed into accommodation across the country provided by the relevant local authority.

The men will not be detained at the centre, meaning they will be free to come and go as they please, although a 10pm curfew is expected to be in place.

The Northern Echo: A boat believed to be carrying migrants entering Dover via the English Channel Picture PAA boat believed to be carrying migrants entering Dover via the English Channel Picture PA

Why is the asylum centre necessary?

The Government is currently spending £4.7million of taxpayers’ money per day on housing asylum seekers in hotels across the UK.

Although the Home Office has not revealed how much setting up the centre at Linton-on-Ouse will cost, officials say it will represent better value for money for the taxpayer than the hotel system.

Creating a centre where all the applications are processed on one site is also seen to be a more efficient way of dealing with asylum claims.

What security measures are in place?

The centre will be managed on the Government’s behalf by public services firm Serco.

Residents have been told the site will feature a state-of-the-art security system, including CCTV, security guards on the front gates and roaming patrols.

North Yorkshire Police intend to have two officers on patrol in the village, from 8.30am to midnight every day, but the force said it would respond to “changes in demand”.

The Northern Echo: Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake speaking in Parliament Picture: Jessica Taylor/PA)Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake speaking in Parliament Picture: Jessica Taylor/PA)

Why the controversy?

A number of factors have been given as to why Linton-on-Ouse is an unsuitable site for such a large asylum centre.

Residents point out that it is a small village of around 600 people and does not have the amenities nor infrastructure to cope with its population more than tripling in size.

With it being a rural area, there are no large cities nearby that the men can easily access to occupy themselves.

It has not been confirmed that any extra funding or facilities will be allocated to the village – such as street lighting – to cope with the influx of 1,500 residents.

This also raises the question of how much additional pressure it will place on local health, council and police services and how they will soak it up without any additional resources.

Villagers have also raised safety concerns over the potential scenario of more than 1,000 bored young men roaming about the village with nothing to do all day.

Hambleton District Council has launched legal action to try and halt the plans, saying that there has been a complete lack of consultation over them from the Home Office.

Thirsk MP Kevin Hollinrake is also vehemently opposed to centre and has repeatedly met with Government officials and residents in a bid to get the decision reversed.

He directly challenged Boris Johnson on the matter at Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday (May 18), pleading with him to scrap the plan which he says will ‘devastate’ Linton-on-Ouse.

The Northern Echo: Villagers protest against plans for a asylum seeker reception centre at the former RAF Linton on Ouse base Picture: Ben FergusonVillagers protest against plans for a asylum seeker reception centre at the former RAF Linton on Ouse base Picture: Ben Ferguson

How is the Home Office engaging with the community?

A multi-agency forum has been set up, comprising of representatives including local councils, health service providers and the police to find the best way of providing services to the centre’s residents.

Sub-groups have also been formed to focus on key areas.

It’s understood that villagers will be invited onto the site to see for themselves how it operates and drop-in sessions will be held to enable them to learn more about the centre.

Home Office officials also attended a meeting at the village hall on Thursday (May 19) to answer residents’ questions.

They were met with a hostile reception including a demonstration of around 200 people chanting that it was the ‘wrong plan, wrong place’.

Officials were heckled and jeered throughout the meeting as residents vented their anger and despair over what they say is a ‘recipe for disaster’ and a ‘bomb being dropped’ on their sleepy village.

When will it open?

Legal action not withstanding, it is expected that the centre will welcome its first residents at the end of this month, May 31, with an initial intake of around 60 asylum seekers.


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