Home Office halts plans to house asylum seekers in Hornchurch hotel
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A plan to temporarily house asylum seekers at a Hornchurch hotel has been halted, the Home Office has confirmed.
Earlier this week, the Recorder reported that the Home Office was planning to house asylum seekers at Palms Hotel on the Southend Arterial Road as temporary measure to stop the spreading of coronavirus.
The decision was criticised by MPs, councillors and residents, saying that they were not consulted over the plan and that the location was not suitable.
The move was part of a nationwide programme to move asylum seekers from their current accommodation in the UK to more spacious ones for families in order to help reduce coronavirus infections.
The intention was to house them for a few days at a time at the hotel in between longer-term accommodation.
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The hotel has been unoccupied for some time and was being renovated to receive the asylum seekers.
Today (Wednesday, June 24), Conservative MP for Hornchurch and Upminster Julia Lopez released a statement saying that the contract between the Home Office contractors, ClearSpring Ready Homes, and the Palms Hotel has been terminated.
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Ms Lopez said: “This morning I spoke to both the Home Secretary’s Special Adviser and the Minister for Immigration Compliance, Chris Philp MP, and I can now advise that the contract between Home Office contractor, ClearSpring Ready Homes, and the Palms Hotel has been terminated.
“This means that those people who were to be housed at Palms Hotel have either left or will be moving out of the premises very shortly.”
Neither the hotel nor the Home Office had confirmed a date or the number of asylum seekers to arrive, nor has the Home Office given an explanation for the U-turn.
Why do asylum seekers need temporary accommodation?
Ms Lopez explains in her letter, after speaking to the minister for immigration Compliance, MP Chris Philp.
“Normally when a person claims asylum in the UK they are housed temporarily while their asylum application is assessed by the Home Office. This is because they are not permitted to work or claim benefits and therefore may struggle to fund accommodation. If that person’s asylum claim is unsuccessful, they are instructed to leave the country. If their asylum claim is successful, that person is then moved out of asylum accommodation as they can begin their life in the UK and seek an alternative home. At that point, the asylum accommodation they were occupying becomes vacant and available to any new asylum claimant.”
Why was Palms Hotel sourced as a new place to temporarily house asylum seekers?
“During lockdown, the movement of people out of this system stopped because the housing market could not function in the normal way. Rather than see this group of people moved out of asylum accommodation and left without a place to live, the Home Office determined to keep everyone in place. However, this meant that there were fewer places to house any new people who claimed asylum in this time. The Home Office has quickly had to source new, strictly temporary accommodation to tackle this.”
“Now the housing market is getting back on its feet, the Home Office hopes shortly to be reverting to the previous policy and it is hoped the regular asylum accommodation estate will be freed up again.”
Why was the community not consulted over the decision?
The special advisor to the Home Secretary explained to Julia Lopez that the government is statutorily obliged to house asylum seekers, councils and other stakeholders like schools and health providers do not need to be notified if an asylum seeker is to be accommodated in a local authority area.
She added: “Since the groups of people being housed at any one time in this way tend to be small, their presence is not flagged to a community. The number of people to be housed at Palms had the potential to be larger because of the pandemic circumstances outlined above. However, this would have been a strictly time-limited arrangement which in any case is not now going ahead. Any residents there have either now moved or will be moving in the next few days.”