Friday, 1 Mar 2024

Home Office plan to house refugees in historic Dambusters HQ blasted

The Petwood Hotel: Home of the Dambusters

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Asylum seekers are set to be housed in the historic headquarters of the Dambusters in a move which has been slammed as a “desecration” of their memory. RAF Scampton was home to the infamous 617 Squadron during World War 2.

From the base in Lincolnshire, they launched Operation Chastise – a heroic mission in 1943 to wreck the Nazi war machine by flooding the industrialised Ruhr Valley.

But now it is reported that the office of its commanding officer, Sir Guy Gibson, will be stripped bare, along with the airbase’s museum.

It is claimed that an asylum processing centre is going to spring up in its place, with room to cater for 1,500 people.

Historian James Holland branded the plan “absolutely insane” and a “desecration”.

He said: “The Red Arrows have been told their air space clearance…will be revoked on 1 April.

“Because the Home Office want to turn it… into a Refugee Detention Centre.”

Mr Holland says the move comes after the local council agreed a £300m proposal to safeguard the airbase’s unique heritage.

He added: “The clearing of the museum has all been done on the QT.

“Volunteers no longer welcome. Metal railings round the Mess two weeks ago. Obviously, refugees need to be housed but why there?

“Where there are listed buildings, so much heritage, and where there are such brilliant development plans in place and where such a plan is so desperately needed.

“It’s absolutely insane. A desecration. And in the 80th anniversary year of the Dams Raid? Has this Govt gone totally mad?

“Surely this cannot be allowed to happen?”

The Sun reports that Serco issued – and then withdrew – a job advert for housing officers to support asylum seekers at Scampton.

The reports of the planned asylum seeker centre come just days after West Lindsey District Council announced it had appointed a development partner for the site.

This partner proposes to maintain it as an airfield, keeping the historical aspects while also looking at the future with space and aviation technology.

District council leader Councillor Owen Bierley said: “The idea that RAF Scampton is even being considered gives me significant cause for concern particularly in relation to our local community, who have already been in contact, especially given the fact it is anticipated that 1,500 single males could be moved to the location.

“We have delivered everything asked of us by the MOD to get into this position of being able to acquire the site and ultimately support them in achieving their Defence Estate Optimisation Strategy.

“And more importantly, we have a deliverable investment plan, which is ready to go but could not be delivered if the Home Office progress with the housing of asylum seekers on site.

“We know that the issue of rehousing asylum seekers is a priority for the Home Office but if they were successful in realising their ambitions of deploying RAF Scampton in this way, it would be counter-productive to the Government’s longer-term investment and Levelling Up agenda.

“For all of these reasons and given the particular circumstances which apply to RAF Scampton, we are urging the Government to remove RAF Scampton from its list of proposed asylum accommodation locations.”

A public meeting is now going to be held in the village of Scampton to discuss what is happening.

Scampton Parish Council chairman Councillor Chris Bulteel said: “The aims of the public meeting is to gauge public opinion, understand the current state of play and to plan an appropriate course of action.”

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There are just two months until the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Operation Chastise raids on May 16 and May 17 1943.

Led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson the squadron destroyed three dams in the Ruhr valley using the “bouncing bomb”.

The target of the 133 aircrew in 19 Lancasters were the Mohne, the Eder and the Sorpe dams.

They managed to breach the Mohne and the Eder but the Sorpe remained intact.

The raids cost the lives of 53 of the squadron and three became prisoners of war.

Almost 1,300 people on the ground were killed in the flooding caused by the raids.

The last surviving member of 617 squadron – Dambuster George “Johnny” Johnson – died last year.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being put on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.

“We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.

“The government is engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.”

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