Angry protests aren’t something you’d associate with the pretty North Yorkshire village of Linton-on-Ouse – until now.
Residents are frustrated and furious with the Home Office’s announcement that the former RAF base there will soon become an asylum reception centre for up to 1,500 people.
Representatives from the Home Office came to the village this week to attend a parish council meeting, and face questions from the residents.
They were greeted with boos, and chants of “wrong plan, wrong place”, the phrase that has become the campaign slogan for those opposed to the scheme.
The village has a population of between six and seven hundred, with just four buses a day passing through it.
The RAF base has been here since 1937.
Originally home to part of Bomber Command, it became a training centre for all the RAF’s fast-jet pilots, including Prince William.
But in 2014 the base began to be wound down, as training was moved to RAF Valley in Anglesey.
Then in 2020 it closed altogether, with the MoD originally planning to sell the site in 2023.
But Home Secretary Priti Patel had other plans and last month it was announced that it was to become the temporary home of hundreds of asylum seekers.
During the, at times, rowdy meeting in the village hall the Home Office representatives told villagers they wanted to “hear their concerns” and “work with them for the best outcome”.
The villagers were less than impressed, having suffered what they described as the “bombshell” of finding out about the plans via the media.
“Don’t treat us like idiots,” said one.
“We don’t want to work with you, we want this stopped,” said another.
The local district council, Hambleton, says it is exploring the possibility of a legal challenge to the Home Office decision, and so are several individuals.
Local Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, is also bitterly opposed to the plan.
He raised the issue in prime minister’s questions earlier in the week.
“What I was trying to do is keep the matter in the parliamentary eyeline,” he explained.
“To make sure the people who are responsible for this decision – which does include the prime minister – think about what they’re doing because this is catastrophic.”
‘Lots of us are working class people who happen to live in a rural area’
Dr Olga Matthias, the daughter of an immigrant father who fled the former Yugoslavia after the war, is one of those leading the protest campaign.
“It’s not about nimbyism,” she said.
“It’s about a totally inappropriate plan being forced on a tiny village.
“A plan that Priti Patel has now made sure isn’t going to happen in her own constituency.”
“We’re not privileged middle class people moaning about property prices,” said another protestor.
“Lots of us here are working class people who happen to live in a rural area.”
Another tells me they are concerned about the impact on the local community, and that the government should look to protect its own citizens before worrying about others.
Centre will help end taxpayer funded ‘reliance on expensive hotels’
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The asylum reception centre at Linton-on-Ouse will help end our reliance on expensive hotels which are costing the taxpayer almost £5m a day.
“We are engaging with local stakeholders about the use of the site.
“The New Plan for Immigration will fix this broken asylum system, allowing us to support those in genuine need while preventing abuse of the system and deterring illegal entry to the UK.”
A number of charities that work with refugees and asylum seekers also oppose the plans.
Mary Brandon, from the group Asylum Matters, says: “We know accommodation centres like these are extremely harmful for the people who are placed in them.
“They are destructive to people’s mental health, they end up very isolated and feeling like they are stuck in limbo and separated from the rest of society.”
Another charity, Ripon City of Sanctuary, also works to support refugees.
Now they are also providing advice to the Linton Action campaign group, which may result in further legal challenges.
Critics of the scheme maintain that nobody seems to want it, other than the Home Office.
Unless the government can be convinced, or made to backtrack, the first tranche of asylum seekers will arrive in Linton-on-Ouse by the end of this month.