ASYLUM CENTRES ARE ‘RECIPE FOR DISASTER’ – PEER
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.