Council Leader responds to Home Office over unsuitable hotel for asylum seekers

PUBLISHED: 17 March 2023

Colchester City Council Leader, Cllr David King, has once again written to the Government, after further evidence many of the asylum seekers placed at a Holiday Inn Express in Colchester are not being looked after as expected.

In a response from the Minister of State for Immigration to a letter sent by Cllr King to Home Secretary Suella Braverman in early February raising concerns over the unsuitability of the hotel, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP reiterated the duties, obligations and responsibilities placed on Home Office contingency hotels.

Whilst the minister admitted the hotel is ‘having problems registering asylum seekers with a local GP’, he said there is a weekly outreach service and a daily minibus service to the city centre and the hotel is ‘not unsuitably located’. Rooms are cleaned on a weekly basis and cleaning supplies are also available for asylum seekers to clean their own rooms. However, the minister was concerned to hear about problems being encountered by asylum seekers with the food available to them and has asked that issues be raised with his officials.

Responding to the minister’s letter, Cllr King has repeated the need for urgent reform. The widespread scabies outbreak is under control but serious health concerns remain at the hotel, including a lack of suitable medication and problems arranging repeat prescriptions, Cllr King said. GP visits only occur on an ad hoc basis, with only a few individuals seen at a time, he added. He also pointed out that the minibus service was not provided by the Home Office but had been provided by the council’s voluntary sector partners.

Whilst cleanliness had improved, concerns remained: hotel food was airline-style plastic tubs, bused in and reheated, with issues including contamination or mould. Subsistence payments were woefully inadequate, and the Home Office support and medical arrangements slow and unhelpful. One asylum seeker belatedly diagnosed with cancer, who faced delays booking transport to and from hospital, was forced to walk home despite acute ill health. This demonstrated the potential for loss of life.

Cllr King called on the minister to improve the food service, to accept self-requests for food for diabetics, and to provide an onsite service. He asked for more help with medical support and funding for local authorities, so they could help make the experience of the long stays in contingency hotels more bearable, and urged reform to speed up the work of the Migrant Help service, to increase an allowance of just over a pound a day, and the faster processing of asylum claims.

Cllr King said: “I felt it was important to respond to the Minister of State for Immigration to explain how his arrangements continue to fall below the standards of care expected. I have not been reassured, from what the minister said in his letter, that he knows what is happening. Which is why I have invited him to visit us and see for himself the lives of those in his and our care. We and our partners will of course do whatever we can to help. But the situation as it stands, which is of the Government’s own making, is just not good enough. We have a duty of care, and I must voice our concerns about what we see.”

A copy of Cllr King’s response to the minister can be read here

Page last reviewed: 17 March 2023


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