Councils have warned that the number of asylum seekers being housed in hotels are piling pressure on local services, with two authorities preparing to take the companies involved to court.
They have taken aim at the Home Office for failing to discuss their plans with local leaders, and accused them of not giving enough advance warning for asylum seekers and refugees to be accommodated.
Colchester Borough Council warned the number of migrants being moved to the Essex town was putting pressure on already stretched services.
Council leader David King said: “Colchester is proud to be a place of sanctuary. We have a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to our city-to-be. Again and again, we have proven that in times of crisis, Colchester is there to support families fleeing war and persecution.
“But I am angry at the Home Office’s failings and that we face new arrivals when others do not, when many of our partner authorities across the UK are not called upon to do their bit.
“And when Colchester already has the highest number of Ukrainian refugees in the county, has the highest number of asylum seekers in dispersed accommodation in the region too.
“And has housed the largest number of refugee families in Essex.
“We understand the pressures of the asylum system and that they use hotels as a short-term solution; but we get no advance warning from the Home Office when asylum seekers are placed in hotel accommodation, and we should, and need to, get adequate time for planning to make sure the much-needed wrap-around support is in place for these families.”
Mr King called on the Home Office to give all councils “sufficient notice” and “better consult” with them before sending migrants to hotels.
Earlier this week there were reports that two people had climbed on to the roof of the Holiday Inn Express in Colchester – which was said to be housing asylum seekers.
Essex Police said officers were called to the hotel at about 2.30pm on Wednesday amid concerns for the safety of the people involved, adding: “The situation was resolved quickly with the people on the roof coming down.”
Mr King’s comments come as two councils are preparing to take hotel companies to court next week.
Injunction application hearings are due to take place at the High Court for East Riding of Yorkshire Council against LGH Hotels Management Limited as well as Ipswich Borough Council against Fairview Hotels (Ipswich) Limited and another company.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is due back in court in early December for the final hearing in their bid for an injunction against Britannia Hotels, after they were refused a temporary order on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Westminster City Council said its rough sleeping service had offered hotel spaces to 11 migrants who had been in the Manston processing centre in Kent but were left in London Victoria station on Tuesday without accommodation, appropriate clothing or money.
Seven took up the offer, the council said, adding that staff were trying to get the group to Lunar House in Croydon to be assessed by Home Office officials.
Council leader Adam Hug said the increasing number of refugees in Westminster hotels was putting pressure on local medical services, and called for a “humane and organised” response to the situation, adding: “The chaos that is engulfing the arrival centre at Manston is now impacting on councils across the country.
“It is not acceptable that people seeking asylum in the UK are effectively dumped at a coach station and left to fend for themselves, we need a more humane and frankly better organised response.
“The issue is that the Home Office seems to have descended into panic with no clear picture of where people are going.
“The government needs to get a grip of this urgently, and we would like to be part of the solution.”
An Afghan refugee, who has not been named and was among those left at Victoria, told the Guardian he believed they were being taken to a hotel and that he had earlier told the Home Office he had no relatives in England.
A second asylum seeker, also from Afghanistan and speaking on condition of anonymity, told the paper he was among a group of 15 people bussed from Manston to London on Saturday.
The 20-year-old ex-police officer said he worked with international forces in his home country before fleeing when his parents were killed by the Taliban in 2021, according to the Guardian.
He told the paper: “I was shocked to be left without help. I was cold. I was hungry and I was wondering how to sort it out.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who seek asylum and require accommodation has reached record levels, placing unprecedented pressures on the asylum system.
“The government is working with all local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland to provide more suitable accommodation for asylum seekers and to end the unacceptable use of hotels, with more than £21m in grant funding already provided to local authorities to help them respond to challenges in their area.”
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