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Sunday, 19 May, 2002, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Villagers protest over asylum centre
Protest at Throckmorton
Residents say Throckmorton is an unsuitable site
More than 1,000 people joined a protest in Worcestershire against one of three planned accommodation centres for asylum seekers.

It is the first time villagers near Throckmorton have demonstrated since learning it would be home to one of three purpose-built centres.

The government plans to build new centres - each housing up to 750 people - at Throckmorton, near Pershore in Worcestershire, RAF Newton, in Nottinghamshire, and at Bicester, Oxfordshire.

Campaigners protesting against the asylum centre sent a stark message to the government on Sunday: "It is battle we can win and we will win."

Toyah Willcox
Toyah Willcox: "The residents are not racists"

Addressing the rally local MP Peter Luff said: "The people of the UK owe the people of Throckmorton a great deal.

"In the last year 130,000 animal carcasses have been brought here because of foot-and-mouth.

"You did your bit and how dare Jeff Rooker (immigration minister) say it is time for you to take responsibility."

Campaigners have formed an action group - Protest at the Asylum Centre at Throckmorton (PACT) - and have enlisted help from local resident and former pop star, Toyah Willcox.

Yarl's Wood

"The residents are not anti-asylum seekers and they are not racists.

"It is not a simple black and white issue," she said.

Location of three new centres
The plans have angered local residents

She said it was against the human rights of both asylum seekers and residents and it was down to the Throckmorton to show the government that their policy was wrong.

Residents near the planned sites fear there could be a repeat of the fire that damaged much of the government's flagship asylum centre, Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire.

'Contrived isolation'

The protesters claim to have the backing of asylum seekers themselves and organisations such as the Refugee Council.

Tom McDonald, one of the organisers of the protest, said: "Their view is very similar to ours.

"They don't want their people in a contrived isolation not integrating in the community."

Up to 15 asylum accommodation centres could be built across the UK under the government's plan.

See also:

14 May 02 | England
French deny Tunnel security cut
03 Apr 02 | England
Insurers' 97m Yarl's Wood claim
01 Apr 02 | England
Yarl's Wood shut down
23 Feb 02 | England
Police resist 'riot' damages claim
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