Council claims local hotel now a 'HOSTEL' for asylum seekers

The Rose & Crown Hotel, which Fenland District Council say has become a 'hostel' for asylum seekers
The Rose & Crown Hotel, which Fenland District Council say has become a 'hostel' for asylum seekers

Serco, the firm arranging asylum-seeker accommodation, is working with more than 100 hotels

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A company contracted by the Home Office to find “initial accommodation” for asylum seekers is working with more than 100 hotels around the country, a High Court judge has been told.

Serco is accommodating an average of more than 1,500 asylum seekers a month in initial accommodation, a lawyer representing the company told Mr Justice Holgate on Wednesday.

The judge is considering an application by a council which wants to stop a hotel in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, from being used as “hostel” accommodation for asylum seekers.

He considered evidence at a High Court hearing in London and is due to give a ruling on Thursday.

One of the bedrooms at the Rose & Crown Hotel, which Fenland District Council say has become a 'hostel' for asylum seekers
One of the bedrooms at the Rose & Crown Hotel, which Fenland District Council say has become a 'hostel' for asylum seekers

Fenland District Council wants an injunction to stop the Rose & Crown Hotel being used.

A barrister representing Serco told the judge, in a written case outline, that the firm was one of three service providers contracted by the Home Office to find initial accommodation for asylum seekers during the processing of their claims for asylum.

“This process normally takes around 21 days, after which the asylum seekers are moved to dispersed accommodation, where they will stay until they receive a decision from the Home Office regarding their status,” said Jenny Wigley KC.

“Under the terms of its contract, Serco is required to house asylum seekers on the same day as the Home Office instructs it to.

“In the single week ending 13 November 2022, Serco was required to find initial accommodation for 529 people.

“Serco currently has responsibility to house some 36,000 asylum seekers and the number is increasing rapidly.

“Serco is currently working with 106 hotels around the country to provide initial accommodation, housing 12,112 people.

“On average, Serco is accommodating 1,650 asylum seekers per month in initial accommodation.”

Fenland council has taken legal action against a firm “understood” to be Serco and a company that holds the hotel licence.

A barrister representing the council said legal action had been taken under planning legislation.

“The claimant seeks an injunction restraining the defendants from using, or facilitating the use of, the Rose & Crown Hotel as a hostel for the purposes of accommodating asylum seekers or at all,” said Craig Howell Williams KC.

“The site is located in the small rural market town of Wisbech.

“It was in use until 4 November as a hotel with 28 bedrooms and served tourists and business travellers.”

He raised a number of concerns about the welfare of asylum seekers housed at the hotel and said Wisbech had “significant deprivation”, “organised crime” and a “history of migrant exploitation”.

Lawyers representing Serco – and the other two defendant companies – argued the council’s application should be dismissed.

They said migrants have to be accommodated and disputed welfare concerns raised by the authority.

John Litton KC, who was also part of Serco’s legal team, told the judge more than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Channel since the start of the year.