I am pleased to share changes to the proposed asylum centre at Northeye, Bexhill.
The leading concern brought to me by Bexhill residents was the proposal that 1200 asylum seekers would be free to come and go in circumstances where security is difficult to assess. Following discussions I have held with my colleagues across Government over the last few months, it is now proposed that the centre, if it proceeds, will only hold those who have arrived illegally in the UK and are awaiting removal from the country. This means the centre will be a closed, detained and secure site and that those staying will not be expected to remain for longer than 45 days. Those moving to the centre would do so under a phased approach.
This announcement follows the government’s Illegal Migration Bill which, despite lengthy attempts to block it by the opposition parties, was passed by Parliament last month. Under this new law, anyone arriving in the UK illegally, through routes such as small boats across the English Channel, will no longer have the right to claim asylum. They will be considered illegal migrants and will need to be housed in detained accommodation until arrangements can be made for them to either leave the UK to return to their home country if it is safe, or to a safe third country to have their asylum claim considered with a view to rebuilding their lives there, if their claim is successful.
I have always maintained that a reasoned and constructive dialogue in private with the Home Office would more likely deliver a solution for local residents than would occur via public discourse. This approach has led to the conclusion that Northeye, given its location so close to a large town, would be more suitable as a ‘detained’ site than an ‘open’ site. I also believe that a detained site, as well as the Rwandan transfer scheme, will act as a deterrent to those risking their lives by crossing the channel meaning that fewer will do so. Many of these people are at the mercy of people-trafficking gangs. These changes should help us to break these gangs up.
With the site now being proposed as a closed site, the existing buildings will require total demolition and rebuild, in a manner different to the original proposals. I will work with our local business community and JobCentre Plus to ensure local businesses and residents benefit from this work. I will represent residents of the centre to ensure welfare and care requirements are met.
I am conscious that there will remain disruption to those residents living in the former prison officer homes adjacent to the site, during both the building works to make the site habitable for those housed there, and the operation of the centre.
I will continue to take an active role in all of these matters. Now that we have more to discuss, I will host a meeting, in the coming weeks, for local residents in order to explain what this means for the town. I will invite Home Office officials and local stakeholders to participate. Further details will be shared shortly.
The Bexhill Factsheet on the government website will be updated shortly with this news. Visit this page for further information.