James Cleverly has expressed his desire to shut down the contentious large-scale housing facility in Wethersfield at the earliest opportunity. This is a deviation from the government’s approach of relocating asylum seekers from hotels to places such as the Essex military base.
Wethersfield, most recently used by Ministry of Defence police, is the Home Office’s largest mass accommodation site in the UK for people seeking asylum, with several hundred people accommodated there.
The site is situated in the Braintree constituency of the new home secretary. Prior to assuming his role, Cleverly openly objected to the use of the location, stating that it was unsuitable for housing asylum seekers due to its isolated location and lack of transportation options.
At first, officials from the Home Office stated that they intended to use the website for a brief duration and therefore it would not be subject to the need for obtaining planning permission.
However, there has been a change in their stance as they have now announced their intention to extend their use of Wethersfield for a longer duration. They have also revealed that they will utilize a special development order method to obtain longer-term access to the site. This decision is currently being contested by Braintree district council and a resident of the area.
The level of dissatisfaction among those placed in the military camp has been increasing, as evidenced by two recent protests held outside the camp’s gates. Residents have expressed dissatisfaction with various aspects, such as the food quality, reports of scabies among some individuals, and the negative effect on their mental well-being due to being isolated in a remote location without access to community support.
During an interview with the Braintree and Witham Times, Cleverly reiterated his stance on Wethersfield, stating that he will not be changing his mind. However, he also expressed his desire to shut down the asylum center as soon as possible in his new position.
He stated to the newspaper, “I have two goals. Firstly, I aim to reach a point where we are no longer dependent on it. Let’s strive to eliminate our reliance on Wethersfield, which is why I am determined to decrease illegal migration and put an end to boat arrivals. I will persist in reducing illegal migration in order to shut down the asylum center as soon as possible.”
“Additionally, as Wethersfield continues to operate, it is crucial to ensure that the residents of the area are not put at a disadvantage and continue to feel secure and content in their neighborhoods. It is essential for the facility to be efficiently and securely managed, and this remains a significant aspect of my responsibilities.”
“Any formal decision-making will be made by a different minister of the Home Office, which is still Robert Jenrick.”
A representative from the Home Office stated: “We are determined to put an end to the costly practice of housing asylum seekers in hotels and collaborating with local authorities to implement necessary changes. We are actively listening to the concerns of the community and taking steps to minimize the impact of these sites, such as providing onsite security and financial assistance.”