A Conservative MP has accused the Home Office of using his North Yorkshire constituency as a “sacrificial lamb for national policy”, as a controversial accommodation centre for 1,500 asylum seekers is set to open there.
The Home Office says the site – the RAF Linton-on-Ouse airbase, which ceased military operations in 2020 – will accommodate its first 60 asylum seekers by 31 May.
Kevin Hollinrake, whose Thirsk and Malton constituency includes the base, is angry about the plans and accused the Home Office of “pretty much an abuse of power”. Hollinrake, who had a majority of 25,154 at the 2019 general election, said his constituents are universally dismayed by the proposals.
While many say they are supportive of asylum seekers’ right to seek sanctuary, they insist that Linton-on-Ouse – a “sleepy” village with 700 residents – is unsuitable for a new population of 1,500.
Hollinrake told fellow MPs in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday evening that Home Office officials had indicated to him that the arrival of the first group of 60 asylum seekers to the military base may be delayed.
He insisted the opposition was not about nimbyism or racism but about the scale of the plans in such a small village.
“I have had children as young as nine writing to me and saying how panic-stricken they are,” he said.
He urged the immigration minister Kevin Foster to consider alternative sites for the UK’s first asylum seeker reception centre.
In response, Foster said large reception centres were already in use for asylum seekers in Greece. Human rights organisations have repeatedly condemned the conditions in these centres.
He added that one of the advantages of housing asylum seekers at Linton-on-Ouse was that their entire asylum claim could be considered while they are there. However, lawyers and refugee charities have raised concerns about a lack of access to legal aid lawyers in the area.
Last week, 85 of the 90 members of Conservative-led North Yorkshire county council overwhelmingly passed a vote of no confidence in the Home Office, with five abstentions. Hollinrake described the vote of no confidence as “an embarrassment to the Home Office and the home secretary”.
Hambleton district council, which has responsibility for Linton-on-Ouse, is considering judicial review proceedings against the Home Office over the plans.