A hotel in Exmouth has been confirmed to host an unspecified number of asylum seekers within the coming days. East Devon District Council said it has been informed by the Home Office that an unnamed hotel in the town will be temporarily housing asylum seekers who are beginning their asylum application.
Shannon Brown www.devonlive.com
A number of hotels across the country are being used by the Home Office to house asylum seekers temporarily, following a backlog of asylum applications yet to be processed.
This comes after an investigation into the Manston processing centre in Kent found there to be 4,000 people temporarily housed there – over double its 1,600 capacity. It has since stood empty, since the people being held there were moved to hotels across the country, including one in Cornwall.
According to East Devon District Council, asylum seekers would be arriving in Exmouth within the next few days. Their accommodation will be funded by the Home Office, the council confirms, adding that it was not consulted on the decision.
A statement from the council said it will consider the best way to facilitate support needs for the visitors, in collaboration with its partner organisations including Devon County Council and NHS Devon.
Councillor Steve Gazzard, Exmouth Town Council’s chairman, said: “Exmouth extended an extremely warm welcome to our Afghan families in 2021 and I hope the community will once again help these asylum seekers to feel safe, respected and understood as members of our diverse community.
“The town council will be working with its partners to support the new arrivals and more details will be provided next week on ways in which you can potentially help.”
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for communities, said: “We are aware of the Home Office’s commissioning of the hotel, as short-term emergency accommodation for asylum seekers who are at the start of the asylum application process. This is one of many across the country that the Home Office is utilising for this purpose.
“We don’t know how long those placed here will remain in Devon, but we and our district, parish and town councils partners in Devon, and with excellent support from NHS Devon colleagues and the voluntary sector, are well placed to provide care and support to individuals. We are extending our hand of welcome to those new arrivals, and with a duty of care, will do all we can to support them.”
NHS Devon’s chief medical officer Dr Nigel Acheson said: “The NHS in Devon has well-established processes in place to ensure our doctors and other health professionals can provide essential care to support very vulnerable people arriving in our country as refugees or asylum seekers. Local people can continue to access health services as normal.”
On Wednesday Home Secretary Suella Braverman faced the Commons Home Affairs Committee over whose fault the conditions at the Manston processing centre were. The Home Office has now been threatened with five legal actions over the site.
Speaking to MPs on Wednesday, Ms Braverman said: “I’m not going to point the finger of blame at any one person. It’s not as simple as that.”
When pressed further, she said: “I tell you who’s at fault. It’s very clear who’s at fault. It’s the people who are breaking our rules, coming here illegally, exploiting vulnerable people and trying to reduce the generosity of the British people. That’s who’s at fault.”
However, MPs said there is a “shortage of safe and legal routes” to the UK for asylum seekers after the Home Secretary struggled to explain how an orphaned African child fleeing war and religious persecution, who has a sibling living legally in the UK, would be able to make a claim from abroad.
In the exchange on Wednesday, Ms Braverman replied: “Well, we have an asylum system and people can put in applications for asylum.”
Tim Loughton a Conservative member of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, then asked: “How would I do that?”
To which Ms Braverman said: “You can do it through the safe and legal routes that we have.”
But Mr Loughton replied: “I’m not Syrian. I’m not Afghan. I’m not Ukrainian… What scheme is open to me?”
“Well, if you are able to get to the UK, you’re able to put in an application for asylum,” Ms Braverman added.
Mr Loughton asked: “I would only enter the UK illegally then, wouldn’t I? How could I arrive in the UK if I didn’t have permission to get on to an aircraft to arrive legally in the UK?” At this point, Ms Braverman asked Home Office officials to step in and respond further.