Archive for June 2002
EVENING CHRONICLE (Newcastle, UK)
June 25, 2002,
Neighbours are protesting at plans to convert a former care home into a hostel for asylum seekers. The row is in a residential area of Newcastle where families have already complained about the spread of hostel accommodation. Planning officials say there’s no reason to believe the development will lead to problems. Members of Newcastle Council’s development control committee will be recommended to approve the scheme on Friday. The plan is to convert the former home for the elderly in Bentinck Villas, Elswick, into a hostel for 34 asylum seekers. The bid is from the Angel Group, which already operates an asylum seekers’ hostel in a former nurses’ home in nearby Westgate Road. Council officials have received two protest petitions and 31 letters of objection. Local councillors have voiced concern and residents on the Elswick Ward committee want limits on such developments. Development committee chairman, Coun Peter Thomson, said the council’s cabinet needs to lay down guidelines for commercial providers. Coun Thomson said: “We feel there is an imbalance of hostel accommodation. There is clustering and potentially this can change the character of the area.” Michael Young, chairman of Grainger Park Residents’ Association which is among the objectors, said: “We are doing our bit and are quite content with the number of asylum seekers we have at present but we are reaching saturation point.”
June 13, 2002, Thursday
BYLINE: Jonathan Walker Political Correspondent
Plans to send asylum seekers to live in the countryside are a recipe for disaster, a Midland peer warned last night. John Taylor, the only black Conservative in the House of Lords, said keeping them ‘hidden from the rest of society’ would only increase the fear factor and raise tensions. Lord Taylor renewed his attack on the Government’s proposals after earlier describing the proposed accommodation centres as ‘concentration camps’ and monstrosities. The Government is planning to house up to 750 asylum seekers at Throckmorton, a village in Worcestershire with a current population of 170. It was also used as a burial site for animal carcases during the foot-and-mouth crisis. Residents say they do not have the facilities to cope with the asylum seekers and their properties have plummeted in value. The Government has also received plans to develop an asylum centre in Shropshire. Ministers said proposals for an accommodation centre at High Ercall, near Telford, had ‘come forward’ from private developer The Angel Group. Rebel Labour backbenchers including Birmingham MP Lynne Jones (Selly Oak) who oppose aspects of the Government’s Asylum Bill currently going through the House of Commons have been unsuccessful in winning major concessions. Lord Taylor warned yesterday: ‘If you keep asylum seekers hidden away from the rest of society, the fear factor will grow on both sides. The rural areas, they’re just recovering from foot-and-mouth, and now you’re going to dump on them large concentrations of people who are foreigners to this country – it’s a recipe for disaster.’ The peer had earlier described the centres as ‘monstrosities’, saying: ‘The solution is not to herd everybody together in these great concentration camps, which in effect will be like prisons.’ Residents living in and around Throckmorton will attend a public meeting in Pershore, Worcestershire, tomorrow to outline their opposition to the plans. Meanwhile, Home Secretary David Blunkett will present European colleagues with proposals today for tightening up Europe’s borders and deporting more asylum seekers, when he meets them in Luxembourg. The meeting will stress that international aid and trade deals should be linked to countries which are ‘co-operative’ on migration issues, including accepting back those who have been deported from Britain or other European states. And it is proposed central European funding will help foot the huge bills for border security and asylum, in a bid to ‘even out the burden’. Mr Blunkett said yesterday: ‘We are working against a tight timetable with our EU partners – but progress has been too slow. ‘We need to give confidence to people living in all EU countries that we are giving priority to these issues. We need to ensure that what is being debated at Luxembourg, and then at Seville, makes sense to the public and responds to their concerns.’ The Home Secretary’s paper suggests wider joint operations to ‘tackle weaknesses in the EU border’. It calls on EU countries to ‘identify ways of maximising early returns to Afghanistan’now that the political situation there is more stable. The European Commission should also ensure EU aid ‘focuses more on co-operation on returns and action on illegal immigration as factors in allocating of funds’ without undermining moves to erase poverty. Mr Blunkett said: ‘Today’s illegal sea-borne migrants in the Mediterranean are next week’s illegal entrants trying to get to the UK or another country.’ Policy on which country will take responsibility for an asylum claim and a new Europe-wide definition of a refugee should be drawn up by December, the document said. There should be a report from the Commission on the effectiveness of existing projects to tackle illegal immigration by October.
EVENING CHRONICLE (Newcastle, UK)
June 3, 2002,
Fresh fears that a Northumberland hotel is earmarked as a refuge for asylum seekers have been dismissed by the new owners. Jim Vaughan, group facilities director of The Angel Group, said Otterburn Hall will not be redeveloped as a hostel for up to 200 refugees as rumoured. Fears surfaced in January and local people are concerned that Otterburn’s infrastructure could not cope. Bryce Watson, of Otterburn and District Action Group, said local people had been kept completely in the dark and are not assured that the hall will not end up a refuge. A meeting with the Julia Davey, Angel Group’s chief executive, had been cancelled at the last minute, fuelling speculation. However, Mr Vaughan said: “I can categorically state that the hall will remain a hotel and country club.”
Yorkshire Post June 1, 2002
CAMPAIGNERS who fought off plans for a huge asylum- seekers’ complex on their doorsteps fear it may still go ahead – despite the scheme being unanimously rejected last year. More than (GBP)1m has reportedly been spent on the planned site, at the former Wakefield Prison college, to house more than 200 people despite Home Office claims that the plans have been shelved. Last night Wakefield MP David Hinchliffe (Lab) said he was meeting Home Secretary David Blunkett next week to seek further assurances. He reiterated his view that the site, close to the city centre, was totally unsuitable. The Angel Group, which rehouses asylum-seekers, lodged an appeal against Wakefield Council planning board’s decision to turn down its application to convert the building, and an appeal is due to be heard in October. But in recent months local residents claim the site has undergone a major facelift with workmen reportedly refurbishing the building. Roy Eyre, who lives nearby, said people just wanted to know what was happening. He said: There’s a million questions that need answering. It seems a done deal to many of us. There’s been a lot of money spent and people don’t spend this kind of money without good reason. Another resident, Bob Austin, said: I just wish they would come out and tell us what they intend to do with the building. Residents are being backed by Mr Hinchliffe, who has been a staunch opponent of the scheme since it first came to light last year. To place asylum seekers right next to a top security prison with murderers and rapists is completely inappropriate, he said. I believe there are genuine questions over whether there would be public order problems. Mr Hinchliffe said he had been given assurances by the former Home Office Minister Lord Rooker, that there were no plans to use the site to house asylum seekers, but he hopes to clarify the situation next week. The Angel Group was refused planning application to convert the building into a residential hostel last November, because the location was inappropriate and posed safety risks to the occupants. The rejection came as a blow to the London-based firm, which was understood to have invested a large amount of cash refurbishing the building. At the time, the company said asylum-seekers would only be there for 21 to 28 days. The Yorkshire Post contacted the Angel Group last night, but no one was available for comment.