Asylum Takeover of Rural Villagers' Lives; Ex-RAF Base Could Be Camp for Immigrants

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Byline: EDDIE BARNES

MINISTERS are drawing up plans for more than 20 asylum centres to be sited in villages across rural Britain ? one of them in Scotland.

The dramatic proposal emerged yesterday as the Home Office announced the locations of the first three camps, all former RAF bases ? triggering a storm of protest.

RAF Turnhouse, adjacent to Edinburgh Airport, which was among sites being considered, has still not been ruled out.

It is one of three likely to be named as a fourth centre later this year if ministers decide that more space is needed to house the growing population of asylum seekers.

The three sites named yesterday are all south of the Border ? in Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Nottinghamshire. Each former RAF camp will be home to 750 asylum seekers. The sites are all in safe Tory seats, while two proposed camps in Labour constituencies have been abandoned.

Immigration Minister Lord Rooker said a second wave of another 15 centres could follow if this first batch proved a success.

Eventually, more than 40,000 asylum seekers a year could pass through the network of camps ? suggesting that up to 30 centres will be needed.

In a wide-ranging briefing to journalists on Britain's shambolic asylum system, Lord Rooker revealed that only one in ten asylum claims is successful.

He attacked most asylum seekers for abandoning their families to seek a better life here, and condemned immigration lawyers who 'laughed all the way to the bank' as they tried to slow down the system.

The minister admitted that the Home Office had abandoned any hope of cutting the number of asylum claims in future, and disclosed that the number of failed asylum seekers being deported is still far below the target level.

News that the plans for Turnhouse had been shelved was greeted with a cautious welcome by local politicians.

But the Scottish Refugee Council said it remained firmly opposed to any plans to create 'large-scale' accommodation centres.

John Barrett, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, said: 'While I am delighted that the Home Office has not chosen Turnhouse at this stage, it is clear that they may consider it in the future.' 'I and my colleagues will remain vigilant to any further suggestion that this site may be used for housing asylum seekers. …