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Minister sorry for no notice about asylum seekers’ move

PUBLISHED: 11:02 06 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:58 06 May 2020

Home Office minister Chris Philp MP. Picture: gov.uk/Neil Perry

Home Office minister Chris Philp MP. Picture: gov.uk/Neil Perry

gov.uk/Archant

A Home Office minister has apologised to a Norfolk village for not telling them about the arrival of asylum seekers.

Additional security at the old Officers' Mess building at the former RAF Coltishall which is being used to house people during the Coronavirus outbreak
Picture:  Neil Perry / ArchantAdditional security at the old Officers' Mess building at the former RAF Coltishall which is being used to house people during the Coronavirus outbreak Picture: Neil Perry / Archant

MP Chris Philp, the minister responsible for the asylum process, made the apology in a call with Norfolk MPs Jerome Mayhew and Duncan Baker.

In mid-April, the first of up to 90 asylum seekers moved into the old Officers’ Mess, now called the Jaguar Buildings, in Badersfield.

The Home Office said it did not consult with the community as it needed to urgently find the asylum seekers accommodation when their applications were delayed by the coronavirus crisis.

Some people in the village welcomed their new neighbours, but their arrival also sparked 30 complaints to Broadland District Council and five calls to police about issues including begging and not following social distancing.

The main entrance to the old Officers' Mess building at the former RAF Coltishall site which is being used to house people during the pandemic. 
Photo: ArchantThe main entrance to the old Officers' Mess building at the former RAF Coltishall site which is being used to house people during the pandemic. Photo: Archant

In one case a woman complained a man licked her hand. The man was arrested, cautioned and moved to another immigration centre.

In a phone call on Friday Mr Philp apologised, the MPs said.

Broadland MP Mr Mayhew wrote on Facebook: “The Minister agreed that placement of so many asylum seekers in such a small community made its impact much greater than housing them in a city.

“He accepted that, given this, there should have been greater communication of the plans with local residents.

“He apologised for this mistake and asked that we forward that apology to you all.”

Mr Philp also confirmed the buildings would only be used temporarily.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said the situation had now settled down.

“Lots of people have been welcoming and understanding which is really positive,” he said.

At a meeting on Monday, police said they had six calls from people in Badersfield over the weekend, including about social distancing and racist comments on social media.

A move to recruit volunteers to patrol the area, meanwhile, has been ditched because of fears it could form a “vigilante group”.

The meeting, between the police, councils and companies managing the site, also discussed setting up more support for the asylum seekers and the homeless.

Broadland Council is leasing part of the site for emergency accommodation for the homeless.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Like the rest of the country, asylum seekers are being asked to stay in their accommodation to help in the fight against coronavirus, which has increased the amount of accommodation needed. This is to protect the NHS and save lives.”


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