Furore over Home Office tactics

The government is to conduct an urgent review into plans to convert
hotels into induction centres for asylum seekers after councils
complained they were not consulted.

A spokesperson for the Home Office admitted that the local
community “should have been better consulted” over proposals to
turn the Coniston Hotel in Sittingbourne, Kent, into a centre to
accommodate 111 asylum seekers for the first 10 days after their
arrival in the UK.

The induction centres, introduced under the Nationality,
Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, are intended to house arrivals
until they have been screened and plans are made for their
dispersal or removal.

But the proposals stalled after it emerged that councils and local
people had not been consulted. Home secretary David Blunkett has
now commissioned a review into the procurement process used by the
National Asylum Support Service.

Kent’s director of social services Peter Gilroy, who was only made
aware of the plans last week, said that although social services
would not be expected to provide financial help, the presence of
more asylum seekers would “have an impact on local health

He added that the council’s past experiences had led it to be
cautious about any assurances from government that the
accommodation would only be temporary.

The council has written to the home secretary stating its
objections to the plans. Swale Council has also written pointing
out the absence of any infrastructure in place to deal with asylum
seekers’ needs.

Local people are also protesting and local MP Derek Wyatt plans to
seek permission for a judicial review.

Meanwhile, a nursing home that closed down after being at the
centre of abuse allegations has been used to house asylum

The Alexandra nursing home in Erdington, Birmingham, stopped
operating as a care home last year following accusations that
residents were being maltreated. After talks with the home owners,
the National Care Standards Commission accepted the voluntary
cancellation of the home’s registration in November.

The Home Office confirmed that the home’s premises had since been
used to house asylum seekers for “a short period of time”. It
insisted that the care provided would have been up to the required
standard set by the Housing Act 1995.

There are believed to be at least two other care homes in the
Birmingham area that have stopped operating as care homes and been
used to accommodate asylum seekers, fuelling concerns that older
people could be moved out of other homes in order to make

Mike Gimson, vice-chairperson of care home group Birmingham Care
Consortium, said that it was hardly surprising that poorly funded
care home owners were keen to take asylum seekers instead of older

“Residential care paid for by Birmingham social services is
£260 per week, £37 per day for three square meals, 24
hour care, laundry, taking them to the shops, church etc. It’s
better to look after asylum seekers on a room only basis,” he

He estimates the going rate for asylum seekers in Birmingham to be
about £67 per day for room only, with even higher figures
rumoured to be on offer elsewhere.

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