Government places more than 200 asylum seekers in Hornchurch hotel without consulting council

The Home Office is housing more than 200 asylum seekers in a Hornchurch hotel without having consulted Havering Council.

The council was reportedly informed that The Palms Hotel on Southend Arterial Road would be used this way last week, the same week the first asylum seekers were due to arrive.

In a letter to Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Department, on Friday (June 19), council leader Damian White asked for the decision to be urgently reconsidered.

His letter reads: “While I sympathise with the Government’s aim to disperse asylum seekers to areas of the country with surplus housing, it does not seem appropriate to place so many more people in an area of acute housing shortage such as Havering.

“This is even more the case when this is being done without any consultation with local partners and with an expectation that local services working to keep residents safe will simply add the combined complex needs of 200 more people with no extra funding.

“We have done our bit, with hundreds of asylum seekers placed in the borough, whereas some much more affluent London boroughs have seen virtually none.”

Cllr White states that the council was informed of the decision through an email sent to a “relatively junior member of staff”.

He added that the council and health partners had not been told anything about the occupants of the hotel or what needs they may have.

He added: “The location of the Palms Hotel also presents risks for those placed there, which I do not believe have been properly assessed and addressed.

“The building has been unoccupied for some time, is a “roadhouse” style building on a busy dual carriageway with no local facilities such as shops and pharmacies nearby.

“It has no facilities for children and is not designed for stays of more than a couple of days.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is a temporary arrangement given that across the system asylum seekers have not vacated their accommodation to stop the spread of coronavirus, meaning more spaces have been needed to ensure that social distancing and public health guidance can be followed.

“We would like to acknowledge the work of local authorities and thank them for their help.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter