Heating and hot water problems at military base to be used to house asylum seekers

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick announces changes to migration policy

Army barracks that are to be used to house asylum seekers have had recent issues with hot water and heating, previous reports show.

Speaking in parliament today, immigration minister Robert Jenrick outlined new plans to use old army bases and basic accommodation to save money and dissuade people from coming to the UK.

He said prime minister Rishi Sunak was "showing leadership" by "bringing forward proposals" to use barracks in Catterick Garrison in his Richmond constituency in North Yorkshire to address the problem of migrants arriving in the UK in small boats.

But the barracks, the largest British army garrison in the world, have been beset by heating and water problems in the last year.

In January 2023, Ministry of Defence figures recorded problems with heating systems 102 times since last February, the Mirror reported.

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Meanwhile, in December 2022, Labour MP for North Durham Kevan Jones named it as one of nine armed forces sites which he said had contacted him "about problems with hot water and heating."

"What message does it send to young people and potential recruits if we cannot provide the basics of heating and hot water?" he asked Alex Chalk, the minister for defence procurement in a debate about service family accommodation.

Chalk replied that while many experienced this for less than 24 hours "it should not happen at all" and that the government "will take every proper and legal step to hold [contractors responsible for maintenance] to account."

In his statement today, Jenrick also confirmed that RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and RAF Wethersfield in Essex will house migrants despite threats of judicial challenges from Tories in the areas.

Ministers were also continuing to “explore the possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels”, he added, following reports that refugees could be kept on disused ships.

“This government remains committed to meeting our legal obligations to those who would otherwise be destitute," he said.

"But we are not prepared to go further. Accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more. Because we cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects.”

“We must not elevate the wellbeing of illegal migrants above those of the British people,” he added.

Shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said the plan was “an admission of failure” over the scale of the backlog in processing asylum claims. “They keep making new announcements, but it just keeps getting worse,” she said.

A government spokesperson said: “We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being placed on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.

“We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.

“The government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.”

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