Priti Patel condemns plans for asylum seeker accommodation at former air base

The former home secretary claimed there had been an ‘alarming and staggering’ lack of clarity from her old department.

Ex-home secretary Dame Priti Patel has accused her old department of being “evasive” over how long it intends to use a former air base to house asylum seekers.

In a letter to her successor Suella Braverman, Dame Priti said there had been an “alarming and staggering” lack of clarity about the plans for the former RAF base at Wethersfield in Essex.

The site has been earmarked to house 1,700 asylum seekers by the autumn as part of Government plans to reduce the money spent on hotels.

Dame Priti, whose Witham constituency is near the airfield, hit out after reports the site could be in use for five years.

The first asylum seekers moved into the site in July.

In her letter to Mrs Braverman and immigration minister Robert Jenrick, Dame Priti said she had asked a series of parliamentary questions but had received “no definitive answer”.

“It is therefore concerning to now see that it appears that the Home Office has put in place plans to use the site for asylum accommodation for a five-year period and considers that this meets the value for money requirement,” she said.

Suella Braverman and Robert Jenrick
Home Secretary Suella Braverman and immigration minister Robert Jenrick (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Dame Priti said the failure to provide a direct answer “gives the impression that the Home Office is being evasive”.

The possibility of the site being used for five years to achieve value for money emerged in a leaked memo reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Dame Priti suggested the Government was being “secretive about its intentions”.

She told Mrs Braverman: “Clear answers now need to be provided by the Home Office and the Government must be transparent rather than evasive.

“The lack of clarity has been alarming and staggering and I trust you will resolve this urgently.”

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