Date delayed for asylum seekers to move into East Sussex centre

An expected start date for the first people to move into an East Sussex centre for asylum seekers has been delayed.

Earlier this month the Home Office said the first 800 asylum seekers were expected to move into the centre at Northeye in Bexhill, a disused prison and training centre, by September.

But it has now amended its plans, with no definite date set.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “If a decision is made to progress using the site for non-detained asylum accommodation, we will undertake works at the site and only after the site is legally compliant and ready for use would we start to accommodate asylum seekers.

"We would increase capacity in phases over several months to reach an operating capacity of c.1200 people, regularly reviewing the numbers and use of the site.”

The news comes after a legal bid against the Home Office’s proposals was launched by Rother District Council last Friday (June 9).

The authority said it has asked the Court of Appeal to consider the plans for Northeye, alongside an appeal made by Braintree District Council.

The authority in Essex is taking legal action over similar plans for an asylum centre at Wethersfield Airfield.

Cllr Doug Oliver, leader of Rother District Council, said: “We understand that residents and businesses remain anxious to know more regarding the Home Office’s proposal to accommodate up to 1,200 single male asylum seekers at the Northeye site in Bexhill.

“The Home Office has informed us that they have taken out the original proposal of opening in September 2023.

“The council continues to press the Home Office for information and on June 7, our legal team formally wrote to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, seeking further information and assurances about the future use of the Northeye site.

"We will continue to explore all legal options available to us and will continue to stress to the Home Office the importance of keeping residents updated on their asylum centre plans for Northeye. In the meantime, we are continuing to work with our multi-agency partners to prepare if plans go ahead and we will continue to keep residents updated when we know more.”

Nigel Jacklin, ward councillor for Bexhill St Marks and founder of the No to Northeye campaign, said: “While some may see a delay as good news, this basically prolongs the agony for local residents.

"The Home Office won’t consult residents and has not provided enough information to allow any local consultations. The situation is unacceptable. We’re pleased to see Rother have joined in the legal action and hope we get some clarity soon.”

On June 10, angry residents took part in a third protest in Bexhill to demonstrate against the Home Office’s plans.

The event, organised by No to Northeye, saw people march through the town holding placards.

On June 7, a motion was put forward at Bexhill Town Council’s meeting by Sackville ward town councillor Claire Baldry calling for the council to oppose the plans. The council agreed the motion.

The Home Office said the Northeye site will accommodate single adult male asylum seekers.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “By designing the site to be as self-sufficient as possible, we would minimise the impact on local communities and services. This includes consideration of impacts to the community during both construction and operational phases. As proposals develop, we will work closely with local stakeholders to manage any impact on the local area.”