'Irresponsible' Home Office criticised for taking over Rose and Crown Hotel in Wisbech

The Rose and Crown Hotel in Wisbech is housing asylum seekers.
Credit: PA

Another council has taken legal action against the government, after a hotel closed suddenly to new guests on Friday so that it could be used to house asylum seekers.

The leader of Fenland District Council has branded the Home Office "irresponsible" for having taken over the Rose and Crown Hotel in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Hours after the hotel closed to the public Serco, the contractor which runs the Home Office’s asylum-seeker operation, informed the council of its plans for the building.

On Monday, the council filed an application for an interim injunction at the High Court to stop the hotel in Market Place from being used to house asylum seekers.

Chris Boden, leader of Fenland District Council, said: “It is thoroughly irresponsible of the Home Office to consider placing vulnerable people with no recourse to public funding in a town such as Wisbech, without any consultation or any consideration of the impact this will have on the asylum seekers themselves.

“We are in a rural location, with very limited hotel accommodation and transport links, and we already have significant issues with migrant exploitation and human-trafficking, which would put any people placed here at risk.”

The council said the change of use from a hotel to a hostel was a breach of planning law and the harm arising from such a breach is “significant”.

The authority said it was “disappointing” that Serco had failed to notify it of its plans earlier to allow discussions over locations to take place.

District councillor for Medworth Steve Tierney said: “As councillor for the area where the Rose and Crown Hotel is located, I am deeply concerned about the plan to house asylum seekers there.

“There are other places which are much better placed to give these vulnerable people the support they need.”

Samantha Hoy, the council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We fully understand the concerns about local hotels being used to house asylum seekers and would urge the Home Office to consider more suitable locations where any new arrivals would not be subject to the level of potential harm.”

Fenland District Council is the latest in a string of local authorities to take legal steps to stop the government from using hotels to house asylum seekers, following Great Yarmouth Borough Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Stoke City Council and Ipswich Borough Council.

A Home Office spokesperson said in a previous statement: “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 Home Office and partners identify sites for accommodation based on whether they are safe and available.

“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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