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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.”

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Written by Concerned

May 18, 2002 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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