It has now been confirmed that the Home Office, despite assurances to the contrary, has bussed in more than 50 asylum seekers to be housed in an Ilfracombe Hotel.
[Government in such a mess over asylum seekers it no longer consults local authorities, or even communicates with Tory MPs. – Owl]
Joseph Bulmer www.northdevongazette.co.uk
The decision by the Home Office was made without consulting North Devon Council or Ilfracombe Town Council despite both bodies and North Devon MP Selaine Saxby raising concerns about Ilfracombe’s suitability.
Reports received by the Gazette suggest that 55 people were bussed into Ilfracombe late last night (November 2) and have been housed at the Dilhusa Grand Hotel.
It’s also been reported that security guards have been posted at the door to the hotel, who have been referring the public to the Home Office.
Gazette editor Joe Bulmer attempted to contact the hotel for clarification on the rumours but was told ‘no comment’ before being hung up on.
In October North Devon MP Selaine Saxby and North Devon Council both raised concerns about an apparent plan to house asylum seekers at the Grand Dilkhusa Hotel in Ilfracombe.
After a conversation with ‘a home office minister’ Ms Saxby issued a statement stating the hotel would not be used for this purpose. The Home Office appears to have U-turned on that decision.
Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden has issued a statement regarding reports on the current use of the Dilkhusa Grand Hotel in Ilfracombe.
Councillor Worden said: “Last month, North Devon Council received formal notification from the Home Office of the potential use of the Dilkhusa Grand Hotel, Ilfracombe as a contingency hotel to accommodate asylum seekers.
“We wrote to the Home Office and Clearsprings Ready Homes, the Home Office accommodation provider, raising significant concerns over the process and the suitability of Ilfracombe for this type of accommodation. North Devon MP, Selaine Saxby, raised similar concerns with Ministers and the Home Office directly and asked for an urgent and detailed consultation with North Devon Council.
“At a multi-agency forum on Friday 7 October, we and other agencies repeated concerns that Ilfracombe is an unsuitable location for use as asylum accommodation due to its remoteness and the likely impact of the loss of an operating hotel on the local economy. Following this, on Thursday 13 October, we were advised that a decision had been made not to progress the hotel as asylum contingency accommodation.
“It has come to our notice that the Dilkhusa has now been commissioned and there are currently 55 people in the hotel who have arrived in the UK seeking asylum. We were not consulted or formally notified about this change in direction from the Home Office, nor do we have a full understanding at this stage of their intentions for the hotel’s future use.
“Both we, Devon County Council and Selaine Saxby MP are urgently seeking to gain a full understanding of the situation from the Home Office and Clearsprings, and we will review any appropriate actions we can take in light of the information we receive.
“We recognise our responsibility to help people seeking safety in the UK and look forward to re-engaging with the Home Office and Clearsprings.”
North Devon MP Selaine Saxby has issued a statement condemning the Home Office’s U-turn on the issue, she said: “I have been made aware overnight that it appears that the Dilkhusa has been used to house asylum seekers, this is in direct contradiction to the written advice from the Home Office received less than two weeks ago that the site was not suitable.
“I continue to make enquiries at the Home Office and work alongside North Devon Council, who were also unaware of the change of plans. I consider the manner in which this decision appears to have been taken to be wholly unsatisfactory and I will continue to press for the Home Office to get to grips with this situation, and to work with councils to find solutions, not allow hotels to take decisions which are based on their own financial benefit, rather than considering the local community, economy and even the well being of those seeking asylum.”
A Home Office spokesperson refused to confirm or deny using the Ilfracombe hotel to house asylum seekers: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels and has put our asylum system under incredible strain.
“The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 37,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £5.6million a day. The use of hotels is a short-term solution and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation.
“The Home Office does not comment on operational arrangements for individual sites used for asylum accommodation.
“We engage with local authorities as early as possible whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation and work to ensure arrangements are safe for hotel residents and local people.
“We continue to ensure the accommodation provided is safe, secure, leaves no one destitute and is appropriate for an individual’s needs.
“Hotels are a short-term solution to the global migration crisis and we are working hard to find appropriate dispersed accommodation for migrants, asylum seekers and Afghan refugees as soon as possible. We would urge local authorities to do all they can to help house people permanently.
“The total hotel cost is £6.8millon. The cost of accommodating asylum seekers in hotels is £5.6million a day. The cost of accommodating Afghans in bridging hotels is £1.2million a day.”
No surprise that the hotel doesn’t wish to comment. The Clearsprings outfit has taken over one suspects and the company’s record suggests they are none to fussy about following regulations. Wikipedia has a litany of complaints listed that display a certain lack of respect for their charges, and behaviour that may not always meet the standards that their chief customer and paymaster (the Home Office) will no doubt claim for them.
“The company was accused of failing to properly consult local councils about their accommodation’… is an early entry among the failures stretching back to 2007. The current Home Secretary cares very little about local government – and even less about the welfare of migrants, so we may expect little or no co-operation. Another good reason to remove the Tories from power.