London councils tell government to fix ‘appalling’ asylum hotel system
wo-thirds of London’s councils have signed an open letter slamming the Government’s “failing” asylum hotels policy, saying it is causing unnecessary suffering.
The intervention, led by Greenwich Council, comes after 100 asylum seekers were forcibly removed from a hotel in the borough at short notice, some of whom were sent 50 miles away to Dunstable in Hertfordshire.
The letter calls upon Home Secretary Suella Braverman to take “urgent action” to stop the removal of asylum seekers from their support networks and to improve communications with councils.
“Removals of people against their wishes with only a few hours’ notice is unacceptable,” it states.
“Often by the time we are informed, the removal of asylum seekers is already underway.”
It also calls for basic needs such as food and clothing to be fully met, with councils saying they are “extremely concerned” some asylum seekers are lacking essentials such as shoes, and for the Government to move towards a more permanent housing solution.
All of the councils which have signed the letter are Labour-run, including Southwark, Barnet and Lewisham, with the exception of Tower Hamlets, which is run by the Aspire party.
Greenwich Council leader Cllr Anthony Okereke said: “It is appalling that people who have spent months and sometimes years rebuilding their lives, studying, volunteering and establishing community links, are now being removed and placed miles away from their new homes against their wishes.”
Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services, added: “Many people who have been moved or are waiting to be moved have told us they are incredibly frightened.
“While we appreciate that the Home Office is discharging its duty to provide accommodation to those seeking asylum, there must be a better way of doing it than this.”
Home Office attempts to move asylum seekers out of London hotels to other destinations have often attracted community resistance, including in December when activists protested against the measure at a Muswell Hill hotel.
A Home Office spokesperson declined to comment on the specific case at Greenwich.
“The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels and has put our asylum system under incredible strain,” said the spokesperson.
“The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 45,500 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6 million a day.
“The use of hotels is a temporary solution, and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation.”