An MP has accused the government of ‘abandoning’ dozens of asylum seekers by leaving them stranded in an ‘overcrowded’ hotel.
Around 200 asylum seekers are currently being housed in the Britannia Hotel in Standish, Wigan, the M.E.N. understands.
But the town’s MP Lisa Nandy has described the accommodation as unsuitable and claimed the situation has ‘created huge community anxieties’.
Some residents say police have been spotted at the hotel on a number of occasions since the asylum-seekers’ arrival in mid-July. Greater Manchester Police say they are working with the hotel after ‘receiving a number of reports’ in recent weeks.
The asylum-seekers have been placed in the hotel by Serco, which provides housing and support for those fleeing war and persecution in the UK while they await news on their immigration status.
The Almond Brook Road hotel has previously been used to temporarily house asylum seekers, but was removed from Serco’s list of bases in 2017 following criticism from Ms Nandy about its suitability.
The decision to use the hotel also sparked controversy and criticism from residents, while a far-right group staged a protest outside the hotel.
Serco said it had since resumed using the hotel as ‘a last resort’ due to ‘significant increases in the number of people arriving in the UK’.
Ms Nandy said she was ‘extremely concerned’ to learn the hotel was again being used again and called for Serco to find ‘alternative, suitable accommodation’.
She added: “Last time the Britannia was used, every single agency involved accepted that it was completely unsuitable accommodation, and the support that was provided by Serco failed those who were placed in the hotel and the wider local community.
“Neither Serco nor the Home Office had the courtesy to discuss this with me, the Council, the Police or the community before deciding to use this accommodation again and the Home Secretary has refused to engage in any correspondence at all.
“This is no way to treat our local communities or the vulnerable asylum seekers who are now stranded in overcrowded hotel rooms with no wider support.
“Here in Wigan we have a proud history of welcoming refugees from all over the world and have recently worked with leaders, charities and volunteers across Greater Manchester to ensure that Afghan families are resettled and supported.
“This stands in stark contrast to the disgraceful approach taken by the Home Secretary and Serco which has effectively abandoned many vulnerable young men and created huge community anxieties.
“I have approached local police and community partners to try to persuade Serco to resolve the many concerns that have been logged with them about this arrangement and I have made clear to both the Home Office and Serco that this hotel must be removed from their list of venues and they must work with the local authority and local partners to find alternative, suitable accommodation.”
Claudette Dwyer, who lives opposite the hotel, said she ‘doesn’t mind’ it being used to house asylum seekers.
“They have not caused us any trouble,” said Mrs Dwyer, 27.
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“I don’t mind it being used if it helps. If that was me, I would want to think I can go somewhere that is safe.”
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said she ‘felt sorry’ for the asylum seekers – who she said mostly consisted of young men.
“There’s nothing for them to do,” she said. “They just wander around the streets.
“This is a residential area, I don’t think it’s the right place for them.
“I have seen a lot of police cars which is very concerning.”
On TripAdvisor, the Britannia Hotel in Wigan has been rated two out of five by visitors while the hotel chain has been ranked as the UK’s worst for eight years in a row.
Jenni Halliday, Serco’s contract director for asylum accommodation services, said: “With the significant increases in the number of people arriving in the UK we have been faced with no alternative but to temporarily accommodate some asylum seekers in hotels.
“These hotels are only used as a last resort but as a provider of accommodation services on behalf of the Home Office we have a responsibility to find accommodation for the asylum seekers that are being placed in our care.
“The Serco team is working extremely hard to move people into dispersed social housing as rapidly as possible.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Due to the unprecedented demand, we have had to use temporary accommodation such as hotels to manage demands on the asylum estate. While in hotels all families are given full board meals and any essential basic items they need.
“We encourage all local authorities to work with us to support providing accommodation in their areas for those who are resettled or claim asylum in the UK.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Phil James, of Greater Manchester Police’s Wigan division, said: “We want everyone who lives or visits Wigan to feel safe walking the streets. A number of reports have been made to us in recent weeks and we have listened to concerns from members of the community.
“To help address these issues and reassure those residing in the area, we have increased the number of officers who are out and about on patrol. So, if you do have any concerns, please approach our officers and let them know.
“Where serious incidents have been reported to us with credible lines of enquiry, we have responded quickly and supported those who have been affected. You can also report any incidents online at www.gmp.police.uk.
“We are continuing to work with the local council, the hotel, and other community partners to offer support to all members of our community that Wigan is a safe place to live and work.”
A Wigan Council spokesperson said: “We are working closely with our colleagues at GMP, community organisations and local councillors to ensure any reported concerns are considered and responded to in the most appropriate manner, and also to coordinate offers of help and support for the asylum seekers whilst they are in our borough.