Last Friday evening (13 October), I held a meeting with the residents of the Northeye Estate. These are the residents who will be most impacted by the Home Office proposals to house illegal migrants on the former training centre site at Northeye. I first met these residents last April following the Home Office announcement that the site was being considered for illegal migrant accommodation. At that time, I made a firm commitment to represent them by taking forward their specific concerns, as well as those of the wider Bexhill community, to the Home Office.
Following recent news that the Home Office has now completed purchase of the site and is undertaking further surveys to establish its potential as a “detained” rather than an open site, I arranged to meet Northeye residents again to discuss this significant update. I also invited their elected local government representatives to the meeting.
At my first meeting with Northeye residents back in April, it was clear that a key concern was their personal safety and security. Their homes are adjacent to the Northeye site and they share utilities, roads and street lighting with the site. Residents of Bexhill also told me that one of their main concerns was personal safety and security, not knowing the cohort who would be housed in the illegal migration accommodation. In meetings with Government colleagues, I explained that an open site adjacent to the residential town of Bexhill would pose challenges and would directly impact the well-being and quality of life of residents. I explained the difference between the Bexhill site and the more remote sites which have been proposed as open sites such as those in Lincolnshire and Essex. Following these discussions, the Immigration Minister has confirmed that the site will no longer be designed as an open, free to come and go, site but as a closed and detained site. This means that those who come to the centre will remain inside it until such time they are moved to another centre.
During last Friday’s meeting, the residents spoke with passion about the impact this proposal has had on their lives and the uncertainty it has placed on their futures and the value of their homes. I do understand and fully empathise with their situation. I hope that the commitment which I have managed to secure from the Home Office to use the site only for detained accommodation will help allay their safety concerns. The residents also asked questions about possible compensation, shared utilities, impact of movements to the site and other logistical matters which will impact them. I have agreed to take all these matters forward with the Home Office. I feel very strongly for these residents and I have pledged to do all I can to help them all.
I have been advised by the Home Office that surveys and assessment of the site will continue until the end of this year or early in the new year. At that point, I expect to receive further news on whether the site will proceed which I will publicly share.
In addition to engaging with local residents, I will continue to share all the news I receive with our public sector stakeholders and press the Home Office to improve engagement.