The Home Office is facing accusations of unlawfully separating asylum seekers from the nearby community based on their nationality by confining them in a remote airbase in Essex.
Care4Calais, a charity, has taken legal action against the home secretary, Suella Braverman, stating that approximately 200 individuals housed at Wethersfield airbase are facing discrimination based on their nationality. The majority of those residing at the base, located 12 miles from the nearest town of Braintree, come from nations such as Eritrea and Afghanistan, while the surrounding villages consist mostly of white residents.
Since July 12th, individuals seeking asylum have been provided housing at this location. The area is enclosed by security barriers and constantly monitored by on-site guards and surveillance cameras. The surrounding roads do not have sidewalks and there is no access to public transportation.
Lawyers representing the charity have sent a pre-action protocol letter stating that the home secretary has not met the requirements outlined in specific sections of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 regarding the provision of suitable living arrangements. They claim that the isolated and enclosed environment at Wethersfield could be considered as detention, making it extremely difficult for residents to engage with the surrounding community.
Braverman has been charged with abusing her legal authority by separating asylum seekers from the general public, which could potentially result in their being stigmatized, degraded, or losing their sense of dignity. Individuals at Wethersfield have reported to the charity that residing there feels akin to being confined in a prison.
The organization claims that this situation has consequences for the government’s utilization of other large-scale lodging locations for individuals seeking asylum, including the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.
The second point of contention in the legal dispute revolves around the lack of a reliable method for screening individuals who may have vulnerabilities that would make them unsuitable for housing at Wethersfield, such as survivors of torture or trafficking. Care4Calais claims that these individuals are regularly being sent to the airbase.
The government has been requested to reply to the legal letter by November 7th, prior to the start of a complete judicial review process.
Steve Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of Care4Calais, stated: “We are observing a type of separation. The current administration has abandoned any attempt to incorporate asylum seekers into British society, instead confining them to makeshift detention centers and barges.”
“Falsely imprisoning asylum seekers behind barbed-wire fences, placing them under 24/7 surveillance, restricting their liberty and separating them from any semblance of community is now the chosen policy of this government. We believe it is unlawful.”
The Home Office has been asked for a statement.