More councils considering legal action over ‘unsafe’ asylum seeker hotels

Exclusive: At least eight more councils are considering legal action after six sought injunctions against hotels

Holly Bancroft
Saturday 12 November 2022 15:34 GMT
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At least eight more councils are considering legal action against the Home Office over “unsafe” hotels for asylum seekers, The Independent can reveal.

Six have already sought injunctions against use of accommodation in their areas, with leaders raising concerns about the “health and safety of the people placed in these hotels”.

The Local Government Association, a representative group for councils in England, said the status quo was “not working” and called for “urgent conversations” with the government to tackle the issue.

It comes after the overcrowding crisis at Manston immigration processing centre, where asylum seekers were forced to sleep on cardboard amid reports of scabies, diphtheria and MRSA at the camp.

Questions have been raised about how asylum seekers in hotels can receive support from local services, such as GPs, when in some cases councils are only notified of Home Office plans to move refugees to their area after the event.

Council leaders said that government officials were choosing inappropriate locations for the hotels, such as one hotel in Epping Forest that is in an isolated location on a busy road, far away from shops and public transport.

“The Home Office has acted alone on this. There was no consultation... Apart from the stress on local services, we have real concerns for the health and safety of the people placed in these hotels,” Epping Forest Borough Councillor Holly Whitbread said.

The Local Government Association said it was essential for the Home Office to engage with councils before moving asylum seekers to the area

Colchester Borough, Coventry City, Torbay, Uttlesford District, Conwy, Erewash, West Northamptonshire, Reigate Banstead, Swale and Epping Forest councils all said they were either considering taking legal action against the government or were “monitoring” action taken by other councils.

Some local authorities have already had success seeking injunctions against new asylum seeker hotel plans. However, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Ipswich Council had their applications for an extension to their injunctions refused on Friday.

The growing number of councils considering legal action will add to pressure on the Home Office as they try to ease overcrowding at the Manston site.

Anne-Marie Bond, chief executive of Torbay Council, said that they stood “ready to issue urgent injunction proceedings”.

She added that the council was struggling to cope with a significant number of age-disputed asylum seekers who needed help from local child and young people services.

Councillor Martin Tett, leader of Buckinghamshire Council, said that they were keen to welcome refugees but raised “significant concerns” about the lack of consultation from the Home Office.

In Coventry, the council said that it would “not hesitate to use” legal action if necessary.

It added that “specialist health services and local charities are already struggling to support and manage the demand” from those in the hotels.

Wirral Council said they were only notified of a plan to accommodate a group of asylum seekers in the area “after the Home Office had already started to implement it”.

Conwy Council said that they were seeking legal advice and considering what action they could take.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said that the “current arrangements are not working as many councils are not being consulted or informed in advance about the use of hotels for asylum-seeking adults and children.”

“It is essential the Home Office works properly with councils to help them plan the local services needed to support new arrivals and keep them safe,” they added.

A Home Office spokesperson said that the number of people requiring accommodation had placed “unprecedented pressures on the asylum system”.

“The Home Office and partners identify sites for accommodation based on whether they are safe and available,” they added.

“While we accept that hotels do not provide a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation, and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation during this challenging time.”

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