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MP stresses ‘moral duty’ to vulnerable over fears around asylum seekers

PUBLISHED: 10:35 24 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:16 24 April 2020

Security warning signs up on new fencing 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

Security warning signs up on new fencing 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

Archant

A Norfolk MP has praised the UK for its “long-held belief that we should look after people in need” as he spoke out to quell concerns over asylum seekers temporarily housed in a former RAF base.

The Home Office said the move was not permanent and “to help in the fight against coronavirus”.

Asylum seekers who would be left destitute are housed by the government while their status is considered. But during the virus outbreak, the state will continue to support those who would have had their housing stopped, due to their claims being rejected.

And now an MP has spoken out to calm residents’ fears after questions emerged over the news.

READ MORE: Former Norfolk RAF base used to temporarily house asylum seekers

Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew in the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament LiveBroadland MP Jerome Mayhew in the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament Live

Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew said he was in discussions with the Home Office (HO) and council to set up a single point of contact.

He said: “I’m in discussions with the council to help in that process, which is to answer questions, provide reassurance and make sure we have the right level of scrutiny and oversight, whilst living up to our country’s long held belief that we should look after people in need.”

He said there was 24-hour on-site security, and increased police patrols in the village, “not because there’s any increased risk but to provide reassurance”.

He said those housed at the base had a strict 9pm curfew, but added: “They aren’t in detention.

“This is not a secure facility where people are detained, but people are awaiting the result of applications to remain in the UK.”

READ MORE: Homeless families to be housed at former RAF Coltishall officers’ mess

The Conservative MP said he understood contraventions of social distancing could have an impact on application outcomes, so people would be “incentivised” to follow the rules, but said he had asked the department for clarity.

“We want people to feel that they are being respectful,” he said.

In a social media post, Mr Mayhew said residents were not informed of the move as the HO did not have to consult over its statutory responsibilities.

“We have a moral, as well as legal duty, to house those in need,” he added.

He said of the 97 rooms at the mess, 20 were let to the council to house homeless people from the local area, and 77 had been let on a short-term basis to the HO.

The HO said it would review the measure before the end of June.

READ MORE: Temporary mortuary in former RAF base hangar as Norfolk coronavirus deaths set to rise


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