Priti Patel’s plan to use the RAF base to set up a ‘migrant camp’ has been blasted by angry locals


In Linton-on-Ouse, men in high-visibility vests are already at work behind the chain-link security fence of the Home Office’s newest ‘migrant camp’.

After high-profile failures at Napier Barracks in Kent and Penally Barracks in Pembrokeshire, Home Secretary Priti Patel intends to use a mothballed RAF base in rural North Yorkshire to set up the UK’s largest camp for people seeking refuge.

Plans to double the local population by housing around 1,500 asylum seekers at a “Greek reception center” in the village have been branded “Guantanamo-on-Ouse”.

James, a Linton local in his 40s, says: “It’s like NASA saying, ‘We didn’t make it to the moon, so let’s go even further, to Mars, for our next mission. Even if they were talking about bringing in 1,500 soldiers, we’d say the same thing: ‘That’s not going to work’.”

Olga Matthias said her father was a refugee from the former Yugoslavia


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

Olga Matthias, a local academic, thinks about her father, a refugee from the former Yugoslavia who has built a new life here.

“I keep thinking how would I feel if I got dumped in the middle of nowhere? What will people do to themselves all day? Where are the support services? Interpreter? Lawyers? It’s not just about us, it’s about asylum seekers, their well-being and how they are treated. It’s just not thought through.”

To get to Linton-on-Ouse you have to negotiate a rickety toll bridge over a river and a hand-operated level crossing.

There is no main street – just a main street covered in faded cherry blossoms, with a closed pub, a community center and a lonely paper shop.

When the air force base closed in 2020, the village’s elementary school had just 60 students. But even with so few residents, locals say infrastructure — from sewerage to broadband — struggles and the site is in a flood zone.

The plans were referred to as “Guantanamo-on-Ouse”.


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

Linton is surrounded on all sides by Cities of Sanctuary – Ripon, York, Harrogate and Leeds – which are committed to supporting refugees. But since the announcement, the village has been targeted by the far right, with several visits and a protest last Sunday. James, whose name we have changed to protect his identity, moved here with his family five years ago in search of a peaceful place. He says many locals fear fascists on the street much more than they do asylum seekers.

“We couldn’t go out on Sunday, it was awful,” he says. “There are people talking about safety when the center opens, but it already feels like it. There were people in the village protesting, knocking on doors and asking us to take part in surveys.

“That will be the case for the next few Sundays. The children want to know why they can’t go out and how do you explain that? The people who have been here do not represent us. You have hijacked the problem.”

HOPE not Hate’s David Lawrence says the village is a target. “The fascist group Patriotic Alternative has traveled to Linton in a cynical attempt to stoke fears in the village. While the group tries to hide its true nature, it is an extremist organization run by neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers,” he says.

Ali Ahmadi is a local builder

Ali Ahmadi is a local builder. He’s a British citizen who admires Winston Churchill, but 20 years ago he was a terrified 17-year-old in the back of a truck hoping to get to safety.

“In the truck, they told us to listen for a bang after an hour. Once you hear it, head to the UK via a boat or the Eurotunnel. If not, you’re still in France.”

Ali’s family was persecuted in Kurdish Iran and smugglers were paid to bring Ali to Europe. “If I arrived now, I would be sent here to this camp or straight to Rwanda,” he says. “But since I’ve been here, I haven’t taken a single penny in welfare. I lived on £1 a day for many years and I grew and grew my business. I’m not here to take things.”

After the trauma of human trafficking, he worries about the mental health of the traumatized people brought to the camp, as well as the dangers of fascist vigilantes in such a remote area.

Home Secretary Priti Patel


AFP via Getty Images)

“And I feel sorry for the local people,” he says. “There are many ex-RAF people who just want to enjoy their retirement. Now they are afraid.”

He adds wryly: “Before Partygate and the Chancellor’s tax problems, we had never heard of Linton or Rwanda. Maybe they used Priti Patel to divert attention.”

On Monday, Boris Johnson said plans to use the village were “pioneer” to his controversial plan to remove people seeking refuge and send them to Rwanda.

“You cannot implement the immigration and economic partnership with Rwanda if you do not have an agreement of this type; any reception center anywhere,” he said.

Mal Taylor said Home Office ‘dropped a bomb on this village’


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

But Mal Taylor, a local Conservative councilor and former police officer, tells us the Home Office “dropped a bomb on this village”.

Hambleton Borough Council said it has asked solicitors to launch a legal challenge to the proposal.

Councilor Darryl Smalley said: “The ‘Guantanamo on Ouse’ proposal is an ill-conceived, cruel and morally bankrupt ploy to reduce our obligations to the most desperate people.”

According to new plans, the base is to become an asylum seeker processing center


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

A Home Office spokesman said: “The asylum reception center in Linton-on-Ouse will help end our reliance on expensive hotels, which cost taxpayers £4.7million a day. We consult with local stakeholders about the use of the site.

“The new immigration plan will fix the broken asylum system and allow us to support those who really need it, while preventing abuse of the system and deterring illegal entry into the UK.”

Linton has been in the spotlight before. It was the air base where Prince William received his flight training. During the Second World War, British bombers launched attacks on Germany, occupied Norway and Italy.

Now the battle for Linton begins and the government should expect a fight.

Local Steve Krebs at the former RAF base


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

We find local NHS worker Steve Krebs, 64, looking over the metal fence trying to see what’s happening.

“It’s about their safety and it’s about ours,” he says. “The scale is in no way appropriate for this village. And getting it done is going to cost an absolute fortune. Who will pay?”

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