Tents bought by Suella Braverman to house thousands of Channel migrants ‘could be used at RAF site in Essex’ despite warnings of legal challenges over ‘inhumane treatment’ of asylum seekers
- The tents could be erected at the migrant processing centre in RAF Wethersfield
Tents bought by the Home Secretary to house migrants could be put up on a RAF site in Essex despite warnings it could bring about legal challenges.
The marquees, which can accommodate up to 2,000 asylum seekers, have been bought by Suella Braverman in recent weeks to cope with the thousands of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel.
The Government has announced it attempt to house the migrants on disused military sites, with RAF Wethersfield picked out as one of these despite protests from people living nearby.
Local organisations had originally been told there were no plans to erect tents on the former RAF base, but depending on the circumstances this could change, the i reports.
The details of what these circumstances might be have not been revealed, although it comes as the number to cross from France to Britain in small boats this year nears 15,000.
Marquees at a migrant holding facility at Manston Airfield, near Ramsgate in Kent, in October last year
It is reported that RAF Wethersfield (pictured) could have tents erected on it to house asylum seekers
The publication reports that insiders in Essex have called on ‘some certainty’ to be given about whether the tents will be used at RAF Wethersfield.
There have been concerns about public health near the site, after a small number of positive results for tuberculosis were detected.
The Times, which first reported the tent purchases, cited government sources saying a similar proposal was rejected last year because of warnings it would trigger legal challenges based on the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 beds for asylum seekers will initially be in the marquees by the end of August, government sources told the paper. They will reportedly be housed there for several weeks and then moved out before the weather gets colder in the winter for health and safety reasons.
Among the other disused military sites under consideration to house migrants is RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, which was formerly the home of the legendary Dambusters.
However, plans to place asylum seekers there and at RAF Wethersfield have been delayed by court challenges from two councils and a local man disputing whether the Government can lawfully put the migrants on the former air bases.
Last year tents were put up at a short-term holding facility in Manston Airfield, near Ramsgate, Kent, after an surge in Channel crossings.
In recent days the first migrants have been transferred onto the Bibby Stockholm, a barge which has been hired to house them while their applications are dealt with by the Home Office.
The tents, which can house up to 2,000 migrants, were purchased by Suella Braverman (pictured) in recent weeks
Residents have protested against plans to turn RAF Wethersfield (pictured) into a site housing asylum seekers
In recent days migrants have started being transferred onto the Bibby Stockholm barge (bottom left) in Portland Port, Dorset
The vessel, which is docked at Portland Port, in Dorset, can hold up to 500 migrants has been comandeered in an effort to lower the Government’s £6million-a-day hotel bill that comes from finding accommodation for asylum seekers.
A total of 15 migrants were moved onto the barge on Tuesday, but 20 others had their transfers cancelled at the last minute due to legal challenges from lawyers acting on behalf of Care4Calais.
READ MORE HERE: Aerial photos show dozens of outboard motors and inflatable dinghies laid out in Dover after being used by asylum seekers to enter UK
The charity’s CEO Steve Smith has since revealed that some of the asylum seekers it supported didn’t board the vessel due to ‘mental health concerns’, some of which arose from being ‘traumatised by seeing their friends drown at sea’.
The legal firm behind the last-minute legal challenges is understood to be London-based Duncan Lewis, which played a key role in challenging the Government’s Rwanda asylum scheme.
However, it is understood that those who refuse to be transferred will be given 24 hours to change their minds before the Home Office considers withdrawing their free, full-board accommodation. In that event, they would be declared homeless and responsibility for their housing would pass to their local authority.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘Delivering accommodation on surplus military sites will end the use of expensive hotels to house those arriving in small boats. We continue to work closely with local authorities to address the local communities’ concerns.
‘We are working hard to deliver these sites as quickly as possible.’
A Government spokesman added: ‘We have been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6m a day.
‘We continue to work across Government and with local authorities to look at a range of accommodation options.
‘Accommodation offered to asylum seekers, on a no choice basis, meets our legal and contractual requirements.’
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