Anger at Home Office plan to house asylum seekers at Yorkshire hotel ‘within days’

Political leaders have blasted government plans to house asylum seekers at a hotel in Yorkshire ‘within days’.

The Home Office has informed Wakefield Council that St Pierre Hotel, in Newmillerdam, will be used to temporarily accommodate asylum seekers. Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery expressed anger at the decision, accusing the government of “riding roughshod” over the views of local residents. The Labour-run council has been lobbying the government since being informed of the plan in March.

A number of the district’s hotels are already being used to accommodate asylum seekers. The local authority says public services in the district are under strain as a result of the policy.

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In a statement, Coun Jeffery said: “We’ve been lobbying the Home Office since March. We’ve asked them to reconsider their scattergun and unsustainable approach. They need to get a grip. They should be making decisions on cases much quicker, putting in place a proper system of support which treats asylum seekers humanely rather than blaming them for their own failures.

St Pierre Hotel, in NewmillerdamSt Pierre Hotel, in Newmillerdam
St Pierre Hotel, in Newmillerdam

“And providing reassurance to our communities rightly concerned about the impact on our public services. We’ve been met with complete silence at every turn. Until now, when they announce they are filling yet another of the district’s hotels in only a few days. Ignoring our objections, riding roughshod over the views of our residents, and leaving no realistic routes to stop this being imposed on us.”

Dewsbury MP Mark Eastwood said he is backing Newmillerdam residents in opposing the plan.

Mr Eastwood is the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for the new constituency of Wakefield West and Denby Dale.

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He said: “I am disappointed that the St Pierre hotel will be used for asylum seekers again. The area around Newmillerdam is a visitor hotspot for Wakefield, and with Cedar Court also in long-term use for asylum seekers it’s harming the tourism industry in the area at peak season. It’s clear that it’s not a suitable location. I have promised to do all I can to help.”

Mr Eastwood said he plans to meet with Mears – the Home Office contractor managing the hotel accommodation – to discuss this issue.

Simon Lightwood, Labour MP for Wakefield, said: “Local councils, like Wakefield – who have already faced significant funding cuts under successive Conservative governments – are having these asylum hotels forced on to them with no say.

“Labour offered a reasonable amendment in the House of Commons to the government’s Illegal Migration Bill that would have forced the Home Office to consult with councils, like Wakefield, over prospective asylum hotels.

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“I spoke and voted in favour of this amendment in Parliament. In contrast, Mark Eastwood and the Conservatives voted against it, robbing local people of a say. It’s completely disingenuous of Mr Eastwood to now condemn the decision made by his government because its politically convenient. His voting record speaks for itself.”

Maureen Cummings, the council’s cabinet member for communities, poverty and health said: “Not only does this limit our ability to look after our increasing homeless community, it puts even more pressure on our communities and over-stretched public services.

“It also places vulnerable people, who often have complex needs, in places with no proper support. That’s neither compassionate nor safe.”

The Home Office has described the current asylum system as “under extreme pressure” costing the country £3 billion a year, including around £6 million a day on hotel accommodation.

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A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office has a statutory obligation to provide accommodation for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute while we consider their claim. The significant increase in illegal, unnecessary and dangerous channel crossings has put our asylum system under incredible strain and made it necessary to continue to use hotels to accommodate some asylum seekers.

“We are committed to making every effort to reduce hotel use and continue to engage with local authorities as early as possible whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation.”