Asylum seekers moved out of former RAF officers' building
- Credit: Archant
The Home Office is winding down its use of an old air force base's officers' mess to house asylum seekers, a month after it was branded "unsuitable" for the purpose.
The government had housed up to 90 people originally from countries including war-torn South Sudan at Jaguar House near the former RAF Coltishall in the village of Badersfield, many of whom were there for more than eight months.
This newspaper understands that the vast majority - if not all - of the asylum seekers have now been moved to other accommodation in cities including Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Leicester and Coventry.
A Home Office spokesman said: "As is standard practice, we are moving people from contingency accommodation at RAF Coltishall to more long-term accommodation as it becomes available.
“We take the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously and those at Coltishall are staying in safe, Covid-compliant conditions, in line with the law and social distancing requirements. They have access to appropriate healthcare and to Migrant Help, who can provide advice 24/7.”
A spokesperson for Jaguar House defended the facility, and said they had received a message of thanks from Lady Dannatt, Norfolk's Lord Lieutenant, for their efforts.
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The spokesman said: “This is much appreciated and helps lift those who felt extremely let down by some of the generalised comments made whilst featuring Jaguar House as an example.”
The spokesman said the people staying there had been well treated, had access to religious support and could take part in gardening projects and creative activities thanks to volunteers and the Bishop of Norwich.
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He said they had been told the facility was "an example of best practice" and they stood ready to help in the future.
The spokesman said the centre's closure meant the loss of 20 jobs.
Some asylum seekers embarked on a hunger strike in protest of the conditions and at the length of time they had been placed at Jaguar House for.
But Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew said what made Jaguar House unsuitable was not the conditions or the way its residents were treated, but because of the site's relatively isolated rural location.
Mr Mayhew said: "They felt very isolated and that's why it was not suitable. The facility also had a significant impact on a very small village, and it was imposed without any warning. But they were treated with respect and compassion by the community."