Braintree district council loses bid to stop asylum seekers being housed at air base
The council argued that the government was misusing emergency powers to house the asylum seekers at the air base, and that this decision was motivated solely by cost
An aerial view of accommodation blocks at MDP Wethersfield, a former Royal Air Force base (Photo: Getty Images)
A local authority in the southeast of England failed in its attempt to prevent the British government from using a former military base to accommodate asylum seekers.
The Braintree district council, located northeast of London in Essex, had requested a court order to block the Home Office from housing up to 1,700 asylum seekers at the location.
The council argued that the government was misusing emergency powers to house the asylum seekers at the air base, and that this decision was motivated solely by cost, according to documents filed by their lawyers.
Judge David Waksman said on Friday (21) he had no jurisdiction to grant the council an injunction. However, the judge granted the council permission to appeal against his ruling.
A Home Office spokesperson welcomed the decision, saying in a statement that “surplus military sites will provide cheaper and more suitable accommodation for those arriving in small boats whilst helping to reduce the use of costly hotels”.
Documents filed with the court for a hearing on Wednesday stated that, as of March, Britain was estimated to be accommodating more than 109,000 asylum seekers, with 48,000 in hotels at a cost of £6.2 million ($7.7m) per day.
Braintree district council said it was disappointed with the ruling, but welcomed that it would be able to appeal.
The case will likely be considered by the Court of Appeal, and could affect prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Tory government’s plans to use other disused military bases to house asylum seekers.
Britain anticipates 56,000 migrants will cross the Channel in small boats to its shores this year, according to court documents filed by its interior ministry.
That would mean the government would need to accommodate as many as 140,000 asylum seekers, the filings showed.
Sunak has made stopping boat arrivals one of his five priorities after more than 45,000 migrants arrived on the south coast of England in 2022. The number was a record and marked a 500 per cent increase in the last two years.