INSIGHT - Northeye - Public Meeting

28 Jan 2024

Hugh Merriman MP for Bexhill and Battle called a public meeting in Bexhill on Friday 27th January to give the latest information in his position on Northeye and to provide his audience with an opportunity to ask questions.  It was an intemperate meeting.  Police and Press were in attendance together with about 200 participants in the audience.

Our Member of Parliament explained why he had called the meeting. He had been informed by, and expected the Home Office to have decided what they were going to do with Northeye.  He expected to be able to tell people about the decision, but no decision has yet been made. The only aspect of the situation which he is currently aware of is that the Home Office are looking at the site in terms of it being a detention centre, rather than an open access centre.

Huw Merriman MP
Northeye neighbours face their properties becoming unsaleable.

It is clear that he is in an impossible position.  On the one hand he is the constituency Member of Parliament, and, as several questioners said, they expect him to look after their interests.  He pointed out that he represents a large constituency which consists of communities other than Northeye.  On the other hand, he is now a Government Junior Minister and is expected to support government policy or resign.  Clearly, he is not prepared to do the latter.

The Northeye community believe he is not defending their interests and putting their point of view to Government.  In his defence, Mr. Merriman claimed that since he cannot now speak in the chamber he does work behind the scenes in discussion with relevant ministers. Many questioners expressed the view that residents, particularly adjacent to the Northeye site, say they are frightened, and their properties were now unsaleable

In addition to these views there were others who raised the whole Government Policy as being flawed and a distraction from other major issues of concern and demonised migrants and refugees.  Mr. Merriman consistently referred to them as ‘illegal’ and Stephen Hardy MBE, Chair of Bexhill & Battle Liberal Democrats, pointed out that this was a government owned definition and has no basis in international law.

It was very sad to hear Merriman trotting out several times during the meeting the standard government trope of ‘we need to smash the people smuggler gangs’  Of course he failed to suggest the way to create safe routes for refugees by backing a project to negotiate with France to set up visa application centres there, so destroying in a positive way the people smuggler trade.


Northeye site Bexhill
Northeye - Possibly Home Office Detention Centre.

Also, it was very disappointing to hear Merriman resorting to comments such ‘We have finite resources in the UK’ when countries such as France and Germany have accepted proportionately far more refugees than we have.

It was a bad-tempered meeting with a noisy claque supporting the Northeye residents and their complaints.  As someone near the end pointed out it was sad that this once great welcoming country had come to this.

Report from Bexhill & Battle Liberal Democrats -

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