The British government of Rishi Sunak confirmed this Wednesday its intention to detain irregular immigrants in a pair of disused military bases located in the north and east of England. But Secretary of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick's parliamentary announcement, which includes plans to accommodate refugees on dormitory boats, hit a wall of disbelief and opposition on both sides of the House of Commons.
Even the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, opposes his own government's move to open the Royal Air Force facility at Wethersfield, in Essex, to male foreigners arriving in England via routes deemed illegal. Cleverly represents an area of this district near Stansted airport in Westminster and acknowledges the concern of his electorate with the controversial plan.
Neighbors warn that the base is located in a rural area, in the middle of nowhere and without public transport services to the nearest towns. The local authorities are already preparing a legal action in which they demand the immediate suspension of the project, which is part of Sunak's shock plan to discourage the arrival of irregular migrants and put an end to boat crossings through the English Channel that separates UK France.
The former Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who is also an Essex MP, expressed her solidarity with Cleverly and recalled that an old air base in the north of the country, with similar characteristics in terms of infrastructure, services or rural habitat, was finally discarded as a space to accommodate single refugees. "Wethersfield is no different," protested the initial promoter of the program to export refugees to Rwanda, which has yet to get off the ground due to legal disputes.
The second base chosen by the Sunak executive, in Lincolnshire, played a crucial role in a German bombing operation during World War II, which brought MPs to their feet in debate in the Commons. Conservative Edward Leigh predicted that there will be protests against the "very bad decision that is not based on good governance, but on the politics of trying to do something."
Sunak has promised to put an end to the canal boats. He is also trying to reduce the almost seven million euros a day that the Foreign Affairs (through the Foreign Aid program) is spending on currently housing some 51,000 asylum seekers in 395 hotels. More than 160,000 refugees are waiting for Immigration to complete the processing of their forms.
"We want to get people out of hotels as quickly as possible and into more rudimentary accommodation, which will reduce the pull factor towards the UK, as well as defend the taxpayer's interest," Jenrick said. Other military headquarters are in the offing, including an old headquarters in the Sunak constituency, according to the Secretary of State, in order to provide beds for "several thousand asylum seekers" who enter the country irregularly.
But, in addition, the Government has not ruled out placing migrants in dormitory boats or on ferries moored to ports. This was suggested by Jenrick when he pointed out in the Commons, citing initiatives taken in Amsterdam and Scotland, that "we continue to explore the possibility of accommodating migrants on boats." Earlier ambitions to detain refugees and criminals on ships foundered before leaving shore.
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