Catterick Garrison to be used for housing asylum seekers, minister says
Catterick, in Mr Sunak’s constituency of Richmond, is home to the largest British Army garrison in the world.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said Mr Sunak was “bringing forward proposals” to use the Catterick Garrison barracks to house asylum seekers in his constituency to show “leadership”.
But no further details have been announced by the Home Office as to the number of asylum seekers set to be housed at the Garrison, with a source saying it will be confirmed “in due course.”
Around nine families who fled Afghanistan are already housed in ex military accomodation at the garrison – as one leader said they had not been given details on what was being proposed.
North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les said: ““We currently have very limited information regarding the potential for any asylum seekers to be housed at Catterick Garrison.
“We await full details and will then want to understand any impact on the services we deliver, before making further comment.”
It came as ministers unveiled plans to house asylum seekers in disused military bases in Essex and Lincolnshire to accommodate their “essential living needs and nothing more” despite legal threats from local Conservatives.
Despite opposition from within the Cabinet, Mr Jenrick confirmed that up to 3,700 people will be housed at RAF Wethersfield in Essex and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, with an extra 1,200 going to a separate site in East Sussex.
The third location is a former prison in Bexhill that went on to be used as a training facility by the United Arab Emirates.
Charities said the military accommodation is “grossly inadequate” to house people who have fled war.
Senior Conservative Sir Edward Leigh responded by saying an injunction will be sought against the “thoroughly bad decision” in Lincolnshire, after a similar threat came from Essex.
Mr Jenrick told the Commons the Government remained committed to its “legal obligations” to house the destitute but said “we’re not prepared to go further”.
“Accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more. Because we cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects,” he said.
The minister insisted the sites are “undoubtedly in the national interest” and said “single adult males” only will be forced into the barracks, as he seeks to reduce a hotel bill he put at £2.3 billion a year.
The Refugee Council’s chief executive Enver Solomon said ghe was “deeply concerned” by the plans, saying the suggested accommodation is “entirely unsuitable” to the needs of asylum seekers.
Last year a proposed asylum seeker processing centre at RAF Linton on Ouse near York was abandoned following a campaign by residents and local politicians.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed he had “withdrawn the offer to the Home Office” of the site in August.