Former Norfolk RAF base used to temporarily house asylum seekers
PUBLISHED: 16:28 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:23 22 April 2020
A former RAF base in Norfolk is being used to provide temporary housing for asylum seekers who have fled war-torn countries.
The old officers’ mess at RAF Coltishall, which was used by fighter pilots during the Second World War, is being used to temporarily house asylum seekers - thought to be from Iraq and Iran - during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Home Office said the move was “to help in the fight against coronavirus”.
Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are given free, furnished accommodation by the government while their applications are considered.
However, during the pandemic, the government will continue to house those who would otherwise have had their support stopped, due to their claims being rejected.
A spokesman said the department was working with local authorities to identify additional facilities where asylum seekers could be safely housed and that the measures would be reviewed before the end of June.
One resident, who lives near the base, said: “I do feel for the people there. They are displaced from war-torn countries.”
The Home Office spokesman said: “This is a temporary measure to help in the fight against coronavirus.
“Like the rest of the country, asylum seekers are being asked to stay in their accommodation which has increased the amount needed.”
He added: “Our providers, in consultation with local authorities, are identifying additional facilities that can be used for this purpose.”
It comes the week after a temporary mortuary was created in an aircraft hangar at the base, amid predictions the UK could be set to hit the peak of the virus.
And it follows the news that Broadland Council would offer people in insecure housing accommodation in the former officers’ mess.
The accommodation block is run by a charity which provides religious retreats, and the council confirmed everyone housed there during the outbreak would be found suitable longer-term housing after the lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Speaking ahead of the council moving in the first of its temporary residents, Phil Courtier, Broadland Council’s director of place, said: “It is our duty to find suitable accommodation for people who have nowhere else to live.”
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