Former RAF building could again house asylum seekers

The Jaguar building, pictured in August 2016.

The Jaguar building, pictured in August 2016 - Credit: Google

Part of a former RAF base on the edge of a Norfolk village could again be used as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers.

Broadland District Council is considering whether to grant permission for the Jaguar Buildings at RAF Coltishall to be used for the purpose.

It has already received objections from 12 villagers in Badersfield who have raised concerns about the scheme, saying it is unsuitable for such a rural area.

The site was previously used from April 2020 until February 2021 as an 'initial assessment and accommodation centre' for asylum seekers waiting to find out whether their case to stay in the UK will processed.

The building’s owner, BM Trust Ltd, has now applied for permission to resume that use for a period of 12 months.

The grade II-listed main Jaguar Building was built in 1938 to house RAF officers - a use which ended in 2005 - and it also briefly housed agricultural workers in the summer of 2021

Up to 180 all-male asylum seekers would be accommodated in total, with three staff on duty during the day and two at night. 

Ninety rooms would house two people each, with six apartments in a separate accommodation block for people self-isolating with Covid.

When the site was last used to house asylum seekers, it proved controversial. Within the first month of opening, some five calls to the police and 30 complaints to the district council were made. 

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The concerns included accusations of people walking into gardens, begging, not following social distancing guidelines, urinating in public, damage to a fence and one woman alleging that an asylum seeker licked her hand. This last incident resulted in a man being cautioned by police and moved to another immigration centre.

Local Conservative MPs Jerome Mayhew and Duncan Baker - whose constituencies meet in the village - both discussed the issues raised by their residents with a superintendent at Norfolk police. 

Jerome Mayhew

Jerome Mayhew, Broadland MP. - Credit: UK Parliament

Though Mr Mayhew had said that “the vast majority of the asylum seekers have been respectful”, he maintained during the building’s first spell as an asylum accommodation that the facility was "unsuitable for anything other than a short-term emergency stopgap to keep asylum seekers off the streets during the Covid pandemic", due to its isolated location. 

Similar concerns have now been raised by Badersfield villagers.

One said: “Being a rural location with very little local transport and few amenities, does not make for a positive experience for anyone.”

Asylum seekers themselves are not able to choose where they are housed while waiting for the outcome of their claims, and live on £39.93 per week to cover the cost of food, clothing and toiletries, accessed via a special card.