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Unofficial refugee centre claim denied

PUBLISHED: 02:53 17 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:12 03 March 2010

OFFICIALS have denied that a village's biggest property has been turned into an unofficial refugee centre - and say it is being as a base for foreign workers.

By RICHARD CORNWELL

Richard.cornwell@eveningstar.co.uk

OFFICIALS have denied that a village's biggest property has been turned into an unofficial refugee centre – and say it is being used as a base for foreign workers.

But authorities appear to know little about the activities at Seven Oaks, Trimley St Mary. And there are still many unanswered questions.

Villagers are deeply concerned over who is living in the 28-bedroom former vicarage and say they should be told who has moved into the heart of their close-knit community.

The building is understood to have become home to a number of people from Russia and East Timor.

But a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the occupants were not asylum seekers or refugees and the council has no responsibility for who was living in the detached house in Church Lane.

"This property has nothing to do with the county council. We understand it is being used for foreign workers recruited by agencies," said the spokesman.

However, it is not known which agencies are involved, where the people are working, whether they need or have visas or permits, or if they are being funded by the authorities in any way.

It is not the first time the property, owned by Larry Graham, has been home to foreign nationals.

Previously it was used without permission as a hostel for 50 young backpackers, students on a year-out touring the UK, who were taken to and from businesses in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire each day to work.

Although villagers are concerned, they say the activities at Seven Oaks are not causing any problems.

However, they have expressed concern over whether the property has been inspected for fire safety and whether it has external fire escapes, fire walls, sprinkler systems and electronic alarms.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk Coastal council said it was in discussions with the landlord about the use of the property and was currently waiting for his reply.

"We have visited the premises with a fire officer and the owner has taken on board some of the fire officer's concerns and acted on them," she said.

Mr Graham was not available for comment today.

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