Thousands of refugees will be packed in former military bases, Tory minister confirms

RAF base earmarked as detention centre
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Tory minister Robert Jenrick has confirmed plans to put thousands of asylum seekers into old military bases in Essex, Lincolnshire, and Sussex. Jenrick also said those held there would get the most basic housing possible. The move is being opposed by charities and local people.

The Independent’s race reporter Nadine White tweeted the news on 29 March:

Military bases

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick deployed divisive rhetoric in his address to parliament, saying:

Read on...

We must not elevate the wellbeing of illegal migrants above those of the British people.

This is obviously a bizarre claim considering how child poverty and homelessness have skyrocketed under the Tories.

Typically, his report to the Commons suggested that many of the people coming to the UK were economic migrants:

This government remains committed to meeting our legal obligations to those who would otherwise be destitute. But we are not prepared to go further. Accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more. Because we cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects.

Jenrick also said that boats could be used to house asylum seekers offshore, citing other countries which did the same:

We are continuing to explore the possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels, as they are in Scotland and in the Netherlands

Opposition

However, some Tory MPs opposed the idea. Edward Leigh MP, whose Gainsborough constituency is home to the proposed RAF Scampton camp, said he would seek an injunction. Meanwhile, several local councils – including Tory-led councils – have said they will also seek injunctions. Concerns were raised about community safety and practicalities, and Jenrick confirmed that only single adult males would be held in the facilities.

The Refugee Council said:

Conditions

It’s also essential to consider what the conditions in these bases are going to be like. The Tories have used military bases to hold asylum detainees in recent years, with some alarming reports.

A former RAF site in Norwich temporarily housing asylum seekers has faced allegations of “poor conditions, poor food quality and mental health crises”. Moreover, the Canary has extensively documented human rights abuses at Manston in Kent, another former RAF base. And there have also been reports of appalling conditions for people living on former army barracks in Penally, Wales.

In June 2021, a number of detainees brought a case against Napier Barracks in Kent to the high court. They won after arguing that the barracks was unfit for their needs. A judge ruled that the then-home secretary Priti Patel had acted “irrationally”. The judge also that ordered a number of asylum seekers be relocated from the squalid conditions.

Slippery slope

It’s likely that Jenrick is aware of these instances of the mistreatment of asylum detainees at former military barracks, yet he still chose to announce this plan. His announcement comes on top of the Illegal Migration Act and plans to deport desperate refugees to Rwanda.

More and more, the UK’s asylum system is a playground for posturing racists playing to the very worst sections of society – and at the expense of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Harvey Milligan, cropped to 770 x 403, licenced under CC BY 4.0.

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