RISHI SUNAK is being very brave in offering up a barracks at Catterick Garrison to house asylum seekers.

Only a few months ago, there was a large public outcry in North Yorkshire when it was proposed to turn a disused RAF base at Linton-on-Ouse into a base for asylum seekers. That outcry was supported by North Yorkshire Conservative MPs, including Mr Sunak.


Catterick, Europe’s largest army base with a population of 13,000, is probably a better place for the arrivals than a small village, like Linton with a population of 700, which felt it was going to be overwhelmed.

That was a question of proportionality and we await to see the extent of the Catterick proposals, but should people arrive, we hope they are greeted in the way Ukrainian refugees were treated, with warmth and humanity.

This is a very difficult issue and there are no easy answers, but there is an air of desperation about this new policy. One minute, asylum seekers are being flown to Rwanda, the next they are being housed in hotels, then they are putting put on barges like the opening scene in Dickens’ Great Expectations, and now they are going into military establishments.

The real issue is that it is taking so long to process asylum applications. In 2022, 10 per cent of applications were dwelt with within six months compared to 87 per cent in 2014, and in 2021, 53 per cent of applications took more than 1.5 years to address and six per cent took more than three years. Yes, the number of applications is growing, but the backlog is soaring exponentially.

In 2012, a caseworker decided nearly 14 applications a month; in December 2022, it was just four a month. If we speeded up our system, there wouldn’t be so many people needing to be kept on boats or army bases.