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HomeNewsResidents Worry Over Plan To House Child Asylum Seekers In Care Home

Residents Worry Over Plan To House Child Asylum Seekers In Care Home

Residents living near a former Care Home in Minster-on-Sea on the Isle of Sheppey have expressed their anger over plans to house unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Kent County Council is proposing to house 50 children aged 16 and 17, at the empty Ocean Heights Residential Care Home in Seaside Avenue.

In a letter sent to residents, the council say the site is due to open next month.

Residents say they are ‘deeply concerned by the plans’ and a petition calling for the proposals to be scrapped, has gained more than 3,500 signatures.

Petition organiser Karen Russon said “As residents of Minster-On-Sea, we cherish our community and its unique character. We have been informed about a proposed immigration centre to house asylum seekers, expected to be operational by May 2024 at Ocean Heights, Minster leas.

“This development deeply concerns us. Our beloved town is known for its tranquility and as a popular tourist hotspot. The proposed site for the immigration centre is next to the Little Oyster – a care home for vulnerable adults right in the heart of our community. We fear that this project will disrupt our peaceful environment and potentially pose risks to our vulnerable population. Furthermore, it’s important to consider that introducing such a facility in an area heavily reliant on tourism could negatively impact local businesses and employment rates”.

The MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Gordon Henderson said “While I understand that the KCC must follow the instructions of the High Court judgement, and that asylum seeking children must be properly cared for, I do not believe Ocean Heights should be used for this purpose.

“With that in mind I would like to assure my constituents on the Isle of Sheppey that, along with my colleague Aisha Cuthbert, I will fiercely oppose this decision, for a number of reasons, not least because the KCC have just closed Blackburn Lodge, which was the only county funded adult social care home on the Isle of Sheppey.

“For some time I have been pressing KCC to provide alternative accommodation for adult social care for people on the Island, but they said there were no suitable premises. To then use Ocean Heights, which is a new, perfectly good, and empty care home to house unaccompanied asylum seekers children, is rubbing salt into a very sore wound. I will immediately contact the Home Office, and then raise my concerns in Parliament, as a matter of urgency, after the Easter recess.”

If we haven’t enough money for elderly care and housing then we don’t have money for migrant housing

Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council (KCC), said ”I understand why the local community on the Isle of Sheppey have concerns about the use of Ocean Heights as a new Reception Centre for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UAS Children) and we are actively engaging with them directly about this.

“Last summer, the High Court ruled the previous cap that we had on the number of unaccompanied minors we take into our care, part of managing the whole process from the point of view of the county and the Council, was unlawful and KCC must take “every possible step” to increase its capacity to accommodate and look after all UAS Children arriving in the county.”

“The council must demonstrate to the High Court that it is doing everything it can to meet the requirement and we identified 7 suitable buildings across the county, including Ocean Heights, to become new Reception Centres. These will all be set up and managed in the same way as our 2 well established and successful sites”.

The petition on charge.org can be found here.

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