Linton-on-Ouse: How Yorkshire community took on Government asylum seeker plan - and won

A year on from its being proposed as the UK's first major asylum seeker processing centre, an MP has paid tribute to the community of a village near York for its campaign to stop the Home Office opening a site on its disused RAF base.

But plans for the future of the base at RAF Linton on Ouse, which was decommissioned in 2020, are still uncertain.

In April 2022, it was announced by the Home Office that the site would become an asylum seeker processing centre and could home up to 1500 lone men while their claims were being assessed.

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The announcement provoked widespread anger among the community, both for residents and politicians.

Campaigners outside Linton-on-Ouse Village HallCampaigners outside Linton-on-Ouse Village Hall
Campaigners outside Linton-on-Ouse Village Hall

Kevin Hollinrake, the MP for Thirsk and Malton, and Mark Robson, the then leader of Hambleton District Council, both lobbied Boris Johnson’s Government to u-turn on the proposals.

In August 2022, Defence Minister Ben Wallace announced he had withdrawn his offer of the site from the Home Office, and the site is still in MoD control.

Reflecting on the campaign, Mr Hollinrake, a long-term ally of Rishi Sunak and who is now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business and Trade, said: “I still maintain that it was a total unsuitable location for an asylum seeking processing centre, so we need to find alternative uses for it that provide local employment and potentially housing.

“We need to see that as soon as possible.

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“I had a meeting a few months ago with the MoD. It was a constructive meeting, and it’s something I’m keen to pursue with ministers. If we had a definite plan for the site, it would offset any future speculation.

“I welcome different ideas, I want to see employment use on the site because that's what has been done in the past, which has been good for the village. With hundreds of RAF personnel on the site in the past, it supports the sustainability of the school and shop.

“The village has so many things going for it, it’s beautiful with the river on the doorstep and the site has massive future potential and the community will want to make sure that happens, as I am too.”

Paying tribute to campaigners, Mr Hollinrake said: “The community deserves great credit for what it did. The campaign was excellent, it wasn’t vitriolic in any way, it dealt with the facts and it was very purposeful and comprehensive approach to it. It was relentless.

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“I want to pay tribute to local councillors, they were fantastic. The judicial review put in place was critical to the Home Office’s decision. It was tremendous to be a part of.

“You’ve got to give them great credit, otherwise right now you would have asylum seekers being processed on that site.”

Earlier this month two similar ex military bases - RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and RAF Wethersfield in Essex - were confirmed by Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick as sites for the new processing centres, which form part of the Home Office’s core migration policy.

The MoD was approached for comment.