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Archive for May 2002

Villagers fear ‘asylum centre’

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THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK)

May 18, 2002,

By Graeme King,

People in a remote Northumberland village fear a centre for housing asylum seekers is being created by stealth in their community. London-based accommodation provider The Angel Group took over the Otterburn Hall Hotel and Conference Centre three weeks ago, after months of speculation about their intentions for the site. The company has contracts to house asylum seekers at several locations around the country including the former Angel Heights nurses home on Westgate Road, Fenham, Newcastle. Minibuses have been transporting workers to Otterburn Hall every day from Angel Heights. Page 126 Centre for refugees may still be built’ Yorkshire Post June 1, 2002 The Angel Group said this was just a convenient location to pick up refugees now living in the community, who can legally work. It said asylum seekers not yet officially granted refugee status living in the building are not working at Otterburn. Yesterday, workers could be seen employed on tasks around the hotel and its grounds. Local people are concerned the workers are the first step towards housing asylum seekers, which they would put a strain on services in the village of just 500 people. The Angel Group’s facilities director Jim Vaughan, speaking publicly for the first time yesterday, said all those working at Otterburn Hall were British citizens, either tradesmen from the North East, or refugees granted the right to stay in the UK by the Government. He said in addition to the hotel’s own staff of 22, there were 30 to 40 people employed on refurbishment work, 10 or 12 of which were refugees. Mr Vaughan said he understood local people’s concerns but the intention was to keep the hall as a hotel and country club and the refugees were working on bringing the site up to scratch. He added: “We run Angel Heights as a hostel for asylum seekers. Refugees do not live at Angel Heights. They meet there because that’s where the transport comes from.” Mr Vaughan said six of the workers were staying on site overnight purely as a security precaution. Mr Vaughan said 30pc of the Angel Group’s workforce nationally was made up of refugees. “They speak as good English as you or I,” he added. He said Otterburn Hall was the company’s main hotel interest. It was mainly a property-based company with contracts from the National Asylum Support Service. Gordon Moore, owner of the Border Reiver shop in Otterburn, said: “Many people think this is a rear door way of getting asylum seekers in.” Permanent staff at the hall have been instructed not to talk about its activities. A Home Office spokesman said yesterday refugees could be employed by The Angel Group just as they could by anyone else. He added: “Asylum seekers are only permitted to work once they have been in the country six months. Our enforcement section would combat any reports of people working illegally.”

Written by Concerned

May 18, 2002 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

MIGRANTS DOUBLE LOCAL POPULATION AT BEAUTY SPOT; ASYLUM: VILLAGE INVADED

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Sunday Express

May 12, 2002

By Alison Gordon and Keith Perry SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1 4 LENGTH: 813 words AN immigration row erupted last night over plans to swamp a tranquil medieval village with 750 asylum seekers. The refugees are set to move into a proposed new centre in High Ercall, Shropshire, where they will virtually double the population. Local campaigner Dave Nicklin said: “I don’t think our tiny community can cope with this.” The village dates back to the 11th century, when its beautiful Norman church, dedicated to Edward the Confessor, was built. Its other charming old buildings include the Toll House, the smithy and the Mill House, which have all been converted into homes. The new asylum centre is set to include a swimming pool, mosque, supermarket and post office. High Ercall now has only one tiny shop – which doubles as a post office – a primary school and a solitary pub. The decision has caused uproar among local people. Mr Nicklin has collected more than 300 signatures from residents who oppose the planned complex, which is set to be built on a former RAF base. Residents are concerned that their homes will plummet in value. They also fear a repetition of the mass breakout at the privately-run GBP 100million Yarl’s Wood detention centre in February, the largest asylum-seekers’ holding site in Europe. There are only two other similar centres in Britain, one at Dungavel, South Lanarkshire, and the other at Harmondsworth, near Heathrow Airport, in west London. The 35-acre Shropshire site was recently bought by Angel Group, a company which is contracted by National Asylum Support Service to provide accommodation for asylum seekers. Last night Mr Nicklin said: “We are a very rural community surrounded by small villages and yet they are going to deposit 750 people of a very different culture in the middle of our community. “We appreciate that asylum seekers have to be accommodated somewhere but we don’t think that a small rural community is the right place.” Humfrey Malins, Tory spokesman on immigration said: “The Conservatives, along with other organisations including Amnesty International, are desperate to persuade the Government that this type of accommodation is too large and should not be in rural areas. “They should have a maximum of 250 people and should be sited in urban areas which are far more suited to asylum seekers’ needs.” Pub landlord Timothy Mason, who runs the Cleveland Arms in High Ercall, also has reservations about the proposed complex. He said: “I run the only social establishment in the village and so if they want a night out they will come here. On the one hand it may bring ringing tills but it may also bring other serious problems.” Last night the Home Office and the Angel Group refused to discuss details of the proposed accommodation. Conservative Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, has raised the residents’ concerns with Home Office Minister Angela Eagle. He said: “It’s an extraordinarily illchosen spot. “This part of Shropshire has neither the infrastructure nor the public services to cope with such a large influx. People who come to these centres are often bewildered and frightened and in need of help but none of the facilities they need in terms of public transport, village doctor or language teachers are available.” Ms Eagle has confirmed in a letter to Mr Paterson that the site has been “put forward by the Angel Group as part of its contract with the National Asylum Support Service as possible dispersal accommodation for asylum seekers”. Angel Group spokesman Mark Penfold said: “We are quite deliberately not making any comment.” Banners and posters protesting about the proposed site are prominently displayed around the village with slogans such as “Fight for Our Rural Heart” and “Boot Out Angel. No Asylum Accommodation Here”. Plans for the site – bought by Angel Group for GBP 2.5million from a company called Centrex – are also understood to include a police post. Angel Group hopes to gain permission from the Home Office to use the site as an assessment centre for asylum seekers where their applications to stay in the UK will be processed. If an application for asylum status is successful they will then be able to move anywhere in the country. It is understood that Angel want to expand the existing Centrex buildings, which are currently capable of housing about 250 people. Meanwhile, the number of asylum seekers illegally entering Britain has risen dramatically in recent weeks. Dozens of young Afghan and Kurdish men were last week caught stowing away aboard a Channel Tunnel freight train. Only days before, 34 illegal immigrants were arrested on the British side of the tunnel after smuggling themselves in on overnight trains. Last month British Transport Police picked up record numbers of illegal immigrants at the Dollands Moor rail depot near Folkestone.

Written by Concerned

May 12, 2002 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized