Asylum centre 'may be built in Ipswich'

A PURPOSE-built centre housing up to 100 asylum seekers could be set up in Ipswich, it has been revealed.Local authorities in East Anglia are working together to find a suitable location in the region for a new induction centre – and the Suffolk town is a preferred site.

A PURPOSE-built centre housing up to 100 asylum seekers could be set up in Ipswich, it has been revealed.

Local authorities in East Anglia are working together to find a suitable location in the region for a new induction centre – and the Suffolk town is a preferred site.

The new centre will house adult refugees from countries such as war-torn Iraq, Iran, Zimbabwe and Somalia.

It will mainly cater for people who travel across many countries to the ports of Felixstowe, Ipswich and Harwich as well as East Anglian airports.


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But it will also offer accommodation for people who cannot get a space in other centres across the country.

Robin Rennie , regional manager for the East of England consortium for asylum seekers, said the other possible sites were Bedford and Peterborough.

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He said: "Every region in the county has been asked by the Home Office whether they would consider having an induction centre in their region. We have started the discussions off with interested parties but there are no definite plans or proposals at this stage.

"The Home Office regards Ipswich as a possible site mainly because the Refugee Council is based there."

At the moment refugees often have to wait weeks or even months for their claims to be processed. Approximately 135 refugees are now housed in emergency accommodation across the region, mainly in hostels.

Mr Rennie said: "These people are not allowed to work and have no money and nothing to occupy them and they often end up walking the streets, which is not what they want to do. They want to get on and move on."

He explained the induction centre, which would be funded by the Home Office, would produce a "much slicker system", with people only staying about seven days. If their claim is approved they will be given accommodation anywhere in the country.

Mr Rennie explained: "Once the people are picked up they will be taken to the centre where immigration officers will interview them through interpreters. Their claims will be looked at fairly to see if they have a case for asylum but no decision will be made there.

"They will be given information on Great Britain, how they can be expected to be treated, what the rules are and what is expected in communities. There will also be health checks and screenings. Some of these people will need some further help fairly quickly, especially those who have been the victims of torture."

He was keen to stress the Government had learned from the mistakes it made when it announced that a hotel in Sittingbourne, Kent, would be converted into a centre without consulting people in the area.

Mr Rennie said: "This is a delicate subject and the public do not always understand that this system would be better. There will be a lot of consultation with organisations and the public before a decision is made.

"The Home Office would prefer Local Authorities to run the centres instead of the private sector as they have closer links with the communities. A number of councils will have a say. This is not being forced on anybody."

Both Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council are involved in the discussions.

Councillor Peter Gardiner, leader of the borough council said: "Ipswich Borough Council has been approached by the Home Office to consider provision of an induction centre in Ipswich on their behalf. This proposal is at the early stages of consideration by the borough in association with other key agencies

"As part of this process we will consider all the issues very carefully before making a decision. If it is decided to co-operate with the Home Office to set up an induction centre, then we will work to find the most appropriate solution, with appropriate consultation."

Chris Mole, MP for Ipswich, said he would be looking for two assurances if an induction centre were planned for the town.

He said: "One would be that such a service would reduce the need for the current sorts of arrangements that place people into Ipswich on a more ad hoc basis. The second thing would be that there would be some support for public agencies that would incur additional costs for having an induction centre, whether that would be health or local authorities or whatever."

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