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Joint Statement on Northeye: 4th September 2023

On 31st August 2023 it was announced by Huw Merriman MP that the Northeye site in Bexhill has been confirmed for use as a Detention Centre, rather than the initially proposed Accommodation Centre.
We are incredibly disappointed by this decision and shocked to hear both Huw Merriman and other local campaigners describe this as a victory. We have worked in Bexhill for several years and have a great deal of support for people seeking refuge from local people who consider this a humanitarian issue. In championing this decision, Mr Merriman seems to be only representing a small yet loud minority of constituents who are basing their increasingly racist arguments on totally unfounded concerns.
We already had serious concerns about the use of Northeye as an Accommodation Centre. Such centres across the country, including Napier Barracks and Manston in our neighbouring Kent County have been an absolute disaster for the people placed there, with reports from residents and national charities and agencies confirming the appalling conditions, including people sleeping on cardboard on floors, lack of access to hygiene facilities, poor quality food, and outbreaks of serious health conditions.
More recently, the debacle with the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland has brought to light the Home Office’s lack of due diligence in terms of the legionnaires present in the water system, and its failure to heed safety warning which has now resulted in the Fire Brigades Union taking it to Court.
Detention Centres have a similarly terrible record, such as the infamous Yarl’s Wood centre in Bedfordshire which was the subject of several damning reports, and as of the latest report in 2022 is still housing vulnerable people, despite Home Office policy to the contrary. We therefore have no confidence in the government’s ability to manage their facilities in a humane way.
Despite the scapegoating of people seeking asylum and the Illegal Migration Act which recently passed, the UK has international responsibilities under The Refugee Convention to hear and consider the claims of people seeking asylum in this country. While doing so it has a duty to treat people with the respect and humanity they deserve.
There are also significant questions to be raised over the potential cost of this detention site. The update from Huw Merriman states that to meet the requirements of the new designation as a detention site, the existing buildings will all need to be demolished and new ones built in their place. There is currently a lack of housing across the country, and this is being felt keenly across the whole of East Sussex. We suggest that the millions of pounds this project is going to cost would be far better spent on affordable community housing.
We are very clear: our position on the use of the Northeye site to house people seeking refuge has not changed. We are completely against this plan, which will see people seeking refuge detained in terrible conditions with litle to no access to the support and services they require.
The Refugee Buddy Project Hastings Rother and Wealden
Hastings Community of Sanctuary
Hastings Supports Refugees