Council loses bid to block asylum seekers in Wisbech hotel despite 'history of exploitation'

The Rose and Crown Hotel in Wisbech is housing asylum seekers.
Credit: PA
The Rose and Crown Hotel in Wisbech is being used to house asylum seekers. Credit: Google

A council which had tried to ban the use of a hotel to accommodate asylum seekers on the grounds that its town had a "history of migrant exploitation" has lost its legal challenge.

Fenland District Council brought legal action following plans to use the Rose and Crown Hotel in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire to temporarily house asylum seekers, arguing it would be a change of use into a hostel.

The council was refused an urgent injunction earlier this month and returned to court on Wednesday, arguing there were concerns about the safety and welfare of the people accommodated in the hotel.

The High Court in London heard that around 21 people at a time are staying at the three-star hotel, including some from the Manston processing centre in Kent.

Lawyers for the council previously said that Wisbech had “significant deprivation”, “organised crime” and a “history of migrant exploitation”.

However, in a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Holgate dismissed the council’s bid for a temporary injunction against the hotel’s operators and Home Office contractor Serco.

He said: “It is not said that the hotel is unsuitable, the point made by the claimant is that the town is.”

The judge added that “a generalised point is made with very little detail” regarding potential migrant exploitation.

Mr Justice Holgate continued: “No real link has been put forward between a problem that exists on a national scale and the accommodation of asylum seekers in a hotel.”

The judge later said that some of the people who have been accommodated at the hotel had previously stayed at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire – which “shows that the system is still under considerable pressure, if not stress”.

Mr Justice Holgate concluded that granting the injunction “would not be commensurate with the level of harm on the evidence before the court the claimant relies upon”.

“The conclusion I have come to is that the application for an interim injunction should be refused,” the judge added.

Friday’s ruling comes after three other councils were denied similar injunctions.

On 11 November, both Ipswich Borough Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council lost bids to extend interim injunctions preventing asylum seekers from being housed in hotels in their areas.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council was also refused an extension on a temporary injunction on 2 November.

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