Boredom could lead to violence at asylum centre, inspector warns

An inspector has expressed concerns that boredom may impact the mental health of asylum seekers at RAF Wethersfield and could lead to “violence”.

David Neal, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, said a “lack of purposeful activity” at the asylum centre “was likely to have a deleterious impact on the residents’ mental health” and increased the risk of disorder.

The Home Office said it “disagreed with this assessment”.

In a letter to legal migration minister Tom Pursglove, obtained by charity Care 4 Calais and dated February 9, the inspector said he had since re-visited the accommodation and found “no improvement” from his last visit.

He wrote: “There were 555 service users at Wethersfield yesterday, all of whom face uncertainty and boredom while lacking constructive outlets for their energies.

“I spoke to a number of men, and it was clear to me that there was an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness caused by boredom, which invariably, in my experience, leads to violence.”

Mr Neal added that a decision was expected on February 12 on whether to increase the occupancy at the site to 800 people.

MDP Wethersfield asylum seeker housing
An accommodation block at the asylum accommodation centre at MDP Wethersfield in Essex, a 335-hectare airfield owned by the Ministry of Defence (Joe Giddens/PA)

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take the safety and welfare of asylum seekers at Wethersfield extremely seriously and we will increase occupancy of the site while prioritising welfare and integration.

“Wethersfield is designed to provide adequate and functional accommodation for male asylum seekers and is designed to be as self-sufficient as possible, helping to minimise the impact on local communities and services.

“All residents have access to medical support, including mental health support, and a 24/7 helpline provided by Migrant Help is available to raise any concerns.”

The Wethersfield site opened last July and provides accommodation for single adult men aged 18-65.

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