Plans to house asylum seekers at Hornchurch hotel shelved for second time
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Plans to house asylum seekers at a hotel in Hornchurch have been shelved for the second time in less than 18 months.
The Home Office intended to start using the Palms hotel in Southend Arterial Road to accommodate those seeking asylum within 24 hours of Friday (August 20).
However, outcry in reaction to the decision, from across Havering's political spectrum, has led to the plans being halted once again.
The first time such plans were shelved was on June 24 last year.
On that occasion, the proposed accommodation of asylum seekers was to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Following mass condemnation of the plans, slammed as unsuitable and lacking public consultation, Havering's MPs sprung into action.
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Hornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez contacted the immigration minister and the home secretary’s special adviser, while Romford's Andrew Rosindell conveyed his concerns to home secretary Priti Patel.
On June 24, Ms Lopez told the Recorder: "I can now advise that the contract between Home Office contractor ClearSpring Ready Homes and the Palms Hotel has been terminated.
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“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.”
This appeared to put an end to such accommodation plans, until late last week when a second proposal came to light.
On the morning of August 20, Ms Lopez was informed of imminent plans to accommodate asylum seekers by the Home Office’s director of asylum and protection, Emma Haddad.
Amid fears that previous safety issues had not been rectified, she contacted the director to express concerns about suitability.
Separately, Mr Rosindell once again wrote to Ms Patel, as did Havering Council leader Damian White.
The pair each made clear what they said was a lack of consultation.
Mr Rosindell wrote: "I am very concerned that neither myself nor Havering Council were consulted on this decision and that the only warning that anyone has received is an email to the chief executive of the council telling him that the Palms will be used 'within the next 24 hours to accommodate asylum seekers'."
Cllr White echoed this sentiment, alleging that no detail was provided on "how many people will be accommodated, on what basis, for how long or what broader needs will have to be met by local partners".
Beyond the issue of notice, all three politicians agreed that the hotel was fundamentally unsuitable for those earmarked to be housed.
According to Ms Lopez, the plans were shelved after building safety concerns were identified in subsequent due diligence checks.
Grateful to ministers at the Home Office for acting quickly, Ms Lopez said: "We all appreciate the really tough job they are doing and the imperative to help those in need.
"However, it is vital that all emergency accommodation is fit for purpose and we know that Palms has not passed safety checks, making it inappropriate for young families."
While Romford's Mr Rosindell applauded the reversal of a "patently wrong decision", he urged the government not to pitch similar proposals again.
"This would have been bad for the people of Havering, but it would also have been bad for the asylum seekers who the government is supposed to be protecting," he said.
The Home Office has confirmed the decision not to proceed came after checks were undertaken on the Palms Hotel.
A spokesperson said: "We do not provide a running commentary on accommodation that may or may not be under consideration for those claiming asylum or arriving in the UK from Afghanistan, for safeguarding reasons.
“Any accommodation must be safe, secure and people staying there must be provided with meals and support. Where concerns are raised with us, these are given due consideration.”