Image Credit: Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe
It is very rare for the country of Rwanda and the village of Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire to be linked, but as part of the government’s announcement of a new immigration policy they were.
Alongside plans to give asylum seekers a one-way ticket to Rwanda if they travel to the UK illegally and then do not have their asylum claims approved, the government also announced that they would open a new reception centre in the North Yorkshire village.
The new reception centre will initially accommodate upwards of 500 single adult men and is said to be self-sufficient in that there will be activities on site for individuals to participate in. However, they will be free to leave the site whenever they please and are only expected to be on site overnight. The building they will be housed in was previously used by the RAF until 2020 when they relocated to Wales. This led the village to be described as a “ghost town” by some as over 100 homes were left empty, and the primary school occupancy dropped by half.
Therefore, some have praised the plans, most notably the MP for Thirsk and Malton, Kevin Hollinrake, who said that the reception centre, when operating at full occupancy, should bring around 300 jobs to the village. Furthermore, it is thought to have benefits for the whole country with the government saying it will save the taxpayer money as it will be cheaper to operate than contingency accommodation such as hotels which costs £4.7 million a day.
There are of course, though many who have been more cautious over this announcement, the parish council were not consulted by the government and therefore have said that “We understand there will be many questions raised regarding the proposals, and we will be working hard to ensure communication lines remain open about the details.”
Residents of the village have had mixed reactions. Speaking to the BBC many said they were pleased the base was being “put to good use” but they were worried about the impact on the village, one said they had heard reports of crime when immigrants were housed at a hotel near York and another asked why the base had not already been used for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. Mr Hollinrake has said that he asked the Immigration Minister whether Ukrainian refugees could be housed at the old base in Linton-on-Ouse, but has not yet received a response.
There have also been wider discussions of this policy in comparison to that created to welcome Ukrainian refugees. Many campaigners have accused the government of racism for sending failed asylum seekers to Rwanda but having a policy which welcomes Ukrainians into the homes of British families.
Mr Hollinrake has done his best to quell some of the concerns of residents and other stakeholders, promising that the limit for any asylum seekers to stay at the site will be 180 days, meaning it will not become an indefinite home for individuals. Furthermore, he has written to other MPs with similar sites in their constituencies and said that the concerns of some about the impact on residents had not “been borne out in practice”.
The government still faces a considerable number of questions about not only how this major policy announcement will impact this small village in North Yorkshire, but whether this policy as a whole abides by international law. There will certainly be challenges in courts, in parliament and perhaps from campaigners on the streets. For now though, and possibly for the only time in history, the country of Rwanda and the village of Linton can be linked.