Tory MP tells Home Office minister to ‘consider his position’ over asylum-seeker relocation
A Conservative MP has suggested Home Office minister Robert Jenrick should resign, accusing him of not having “the first clue” of what he is doing in relation to the relocation of asylum seekers.
Philip Hollobone told the House of Commons that 41 asylum seekers have been moved into a hotel in Kettering, despite “serious concerns” being raised by local police about “community safety and vulnerability of asylum seekers themselves”.
He insisted that initially, the Home Office and Serco, a company contracted by the department to find initial accommodation for asylum seekers, had agreed the hotel would not be used until the issues were “properly addressed”.
But a few days later, asylum seekers were moved “without any notification at all”, Mr Hollobone said, and the number could double.
“The situation is now so bad and chaotic that the minister should consider his position,” the MP for Kettering told the lower chamber.
He said that “on Friday, North Northamptonshire Council, Northants Police and other local agencies had an online meeting with the Home Office and Serco” regarding the potential use of a hotel in Kettering, “slap bang in the middle of the town centre”.
Mr Hollobone went on: “Serious environmental health issues including mould and no kitchen facilities were raised.
“Northants Police raised serious concerns about community safety and vulnerability of asylum seekers themselves. The Home Office and Serco officials agreed that the hotel would not be used until these issues were properly addressed.
“Yesterday, Tuesday, the council was advised that 41 asylum seekers had been moved into the hotel on Sunday afternoon without any notification at all.
“And this could potentially rise to 80. No biometric or previous offending history data has been shared with the local police.
“It is totally 100% unacceptable. I asked the minister face to face on October 27 for a meeting, I asked him again on the floor of the House last Wednesday.
“No such meeting has been forthcoming. This is a wrong-headed decision – the local police, the local council and I have been misled and I have no confidence at all that the Home Office, Serco or the minister himself have the first clue of what they are doing in relation to this asylum-seeker relocation.”
Mr Jenrick (pictured) said he would be “happy to make some inquiries” and come back to Mr Hollobone.
Mr Hollobone’s comments came as the Home Office minister was answering an urgent question on consultation with local authorities in the selection of hotels for contingency asylum accommodation.
He said the Government will aim to improve how it communicates with local councils and MPs when hotels in their areas are chosen to house asylum seekers.
Asking the urgent question, Conservative MP for Clacton Giles Watling said Tendring District Council, in his constituency, had been contacted by email on a Sunday afternoon with “24 hours notice” about an asylum accommodation site, adding: “This is an inadequate timeframe and shows how poor the comms from the Home Office have been. I personally have not been contacted at all about this issue.”
Mr Jenrick replied: “As I understand it, having spoken to officials this morning, a proposition was put to Tendring Council to take a former care home in his constituency which would have accommodated a small number of asylum seekers.”
He added the accommodation had since been “dropped by the Home Office”.
Conservative MP Henry Smith called the department “dysfunctional” and asked when it would “get a grip and deal with the core problem that this Government has caused”.
The MP for Crawley said a “significant number of hotels in my constituency have been used to house migrants”, adding it is “starting to cause community tensions and also having an impact on the business community with those hotels not being able to be used”, with one booked up until July 2024.
“When is his dysfunctional department going to get a grip and deal with the core problem that this Government has caused?” he asked.
Mr Jenrick said: “Well, it’s not the Government that has caused the issue here. The primary focus of our attention should be on the tens of thousands of people who are crossing the Channel illegally.
“That is putting immense pressure on our asylum system. And frankly, even the most well-oiled machine would have found it extremely difficult to deal with that.
“We do have a number of serious issues that the Home Office have got to get right, quite clearly we have got to get the backlog of cases down, we have got to get people out of hotels, we have got to find sensible, good, value-for-money but decent accommodation.”
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Aaron Chown / PA.