A petition launched to prevent the English military base used by the famous Dambusters in World War II from being transformed into a migrant detention camp has surpassed 50,000 signatures.
RAF Scampton, located in the county of Lincolnshire, has been earmarked by the British government as a potential site to relocate the more than 52,000 asylum seekers currently residing in hundreds of hotels across the country.
The current policy of block-booking hotels is costing the British government an eye-watering £2.3 billion per year, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick revealed on Wednesday.
“The government will use military sites being disposed of in Essex and Lincolnshire and a separate site in East Sussex,” Jenrick told reporters as he announced four new locations where asylum seekers will soon be housed.
This suggests RAF Scampton, the former home of 617 Squadron — better known as The Dambusters — who conducted perilous air raids on key German infrastructure during World War II, has been selected as one location despite stiff opposition from local residents, politicians and academics.
The Change.org petition titled “Stop RAF Scampton Being Turned into a Detention Camp” was launched a fortnight ago and has amassed 50,740 signatures at the time of writing.
Its author, Hamish Falconer, claims the government policy “would destroy local plans to create a center for the future aviation and space industry, generating 1000s of jobs. Local plans include a heritage center to honor Scampton’s proud history as the home of the ‘Dambusters’ 617 Squadron.
UK: Migrants to be relocated from hotels to military bases and disused ferries
The British government could announce the new policy as early as next week
“We the undersigned, call on the Conservatives to publicly abandon this damaging proposal and allow the local growth and heritage plan to go ahead,” he adds.
In addition to the petition, a total of 40 historians penned an open letter criticizing the move, telling the government that “to erase Scampton’s heritage, rather than preserve, protect and enhance it further, would be a scandalous desecration of immeasurable recklessness.”
Local MP Sir Edward Leigh MP warned the government on Wednesday that the local council will issue an “immediate judicial review and injunction against this thoroughly bad decision which is not based on good governance but the politics of trying to do something.”
“How will he preserve the heritage of the Dambusters and the Red Arrows?” Leigh asked the immigration minister after the announcement in the House of Commons. “How will he protect the safety of 1,000 people living next door to 1,500 migrants and a primary school? He cannot guarantee anything,” Leigh added.
A recent Home Office statement said the department has “always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being placed on our asylum system,” and vowed to “continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.”
“The government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process,” it added.