Local services in chaos as asylum seekers being ‘dumped’ with no prior warning, Parliament told

Chaos has ensued in local areas as asylum seekers are “dumped” on councils without warning as the Home Office tries to move people out of the Manston processing centre, Parliament has been told.

Peers in the House of Lords tackled the Government on reports that asylum seekers were found sleeping rough in central London after being moved out of Manston, but offered no alternative shelter, with the Home Office accused of “abandoning” them.

They added that local authorities have been given “no warning” of large numbers of asylum seekers arriving in their areas requiring accommodation, causing “chaos” as councils, charities and churches scramble to provide.

Former Labour, minister Lord Howarth of Newport said: “Following the exposure of the squalid and dangerous overcrowding at Manston, the Home Office has abandoned asylum seekers to sleep rough on pavements in London with no warm clothes or money.

“Is it not the case that the Home Office has been dumping asylum with no forewarning and no information on councils already struggling to house people in need, or on homelessness charities, or left in limbo in hotels for apparently interminable periods?

“How do these realities square with the claim that the mission of the Home Office is to treat everyone who comes to our country with care and compassion?”

Former Labour MP Lord Dubs (pictured), who fled to the UK from Czechoslovakia on the Kindertransport, which saved children from Nazi persecution, claimed 200 asylum seekers had arrived in Oxford with zero warning.

He said: “I was in Oxford last week; I was told 200 people arrived from Manston and there hadn’t been a word of warning or consultation with the local authority.”

The Bishop of St Albans added that the strain has also been severe on voluntary groups such as churches, who are stepping in to help house asylum seekers, adding that the lack of communication had caused chaos.

He said: “There is a very serious problem indeed.

“Just a few days ago, I had an email from one of my clergy; he said during the week large numbers of asylum seekers had been moved in without any warning to the local authority.

“It’s caused chaos and that means we haven’t got the statutory support in place, but also the voluntary groups such as the churches, where we’re trying to offer support, simply had no warning.

“Will [the minister] go back to his officials? We simply need to get the communication right and we will all try and work with the Government and the other partners to try and solve this very difficult, agonising problem.”

Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth said the Home Office was considering “all possible options” for accommodation and were trying to improve notification.

He said: “We are required to provide support and accommodation to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute while their claims are pending.

“Giving the current pressing need to move people from Manston, we are necessarily considering all possible options and acting to secure suitable accommodation at pace.

“We endeavour to notify as early as possible the local authorities where the accommodation is located.

“This is an unprecedented situation that has required very quick action by Home Office officials.”

He added: “The issues surrounding the allocation of accommodation are certainly the subject of concentrated effort by Home Office officials and it is the intention to improve notification.”

He added that the number of people at Manston as of 8am on November 15 was 1,428, up from 1,147 on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Brinton took note of the public health concern over the rise in diphtheria cases at Manston.

She claimed that the Home Office’s communication with public health officers in local areas has been sub-par and that people are not being tested as they leave.

She said: “Worryingly, it appears that the Home Office is still not talking to the directors of public health in local areas receiving people from Manston.

“On the 1st November, [Lord Murray] said there were four cases of diphtheria; I’m hearing it’s now nearly 40 cases of Diphtheria and we know people are not being tested as they leave Manston.”

Lord Murray said he thought there were 12 cases but would make “further inquiries”.

He concluded: “Healthcare in contingency asylum accommodation is a priority and those contracted to the Home Office endeavour to ensure that those accommodated in hotels or other contingency accommodations are assigned to GP practices and there is a local health screening in most cases.”

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed on Friday that 39 diphtheria cases had been identified in asylum seekers in England in 2022, as of November 10.

The peers’ comments come after news that Manston will start vaccinating against diphtheria.

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