Kent hotel owner rejects 'ABSURD' offer to shut thriving business to house asylum seekers

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THE owner of a luxury hotel in Kent has told GB News he rejected a government offer to house asylum seekers because he "couldn't think of anything more absurd".

Richard Martin, who owns the Blazing Donkey boutique hotel near Sandwich, has confirmed he was offered almost £1.1 million for a one-year contract.

The successful hotelier said he was not prepared to make most of his 50+ staff redundant and let down the community, who rely on his venue for weddings and other events.

The hotel, which is tucked away in the east Kent countryside about 12 miles from Dover, has won awards for its service and been voted one of the UK's top glamping sites.

Mr Martin showed us around the luxury tents and huts, some with copper bathtubs in the rooms. Part of the deal with a Home Office contractor would have meant asylum seekers being housed in the glamping cabins, as well as the hotel's other high-end rooms.

The Blazing Donkey is a popular boutique wedding venue
The Blazing Donkey is a popular boutique wedding venue

The owner said when he was contacted by a Home Office contractor, they promised him full occupancy for a 12 month deal worth £1,080 million.

His first thought was: "This is interesting, 100% occupancy.

"My second thought, when I realised how they were going to achieve that, was one of complete astonishment."

The hotel employs 25 full time staff, but that number swells to more than 50 in peak season. Most of those employees would have lost their jobs, as the basic contract did not involve catering and other services provided by the hotel.

Like many people, the hotel's director Trefor Squire, was made redundant from his previous job during Covid.

He told GB News the thought of going through all that again was unbearable. “You know, for me and some others here it would have been terrible.

“We live here, me another couple of employees as well. This is our home. This isn’t just a job, this is my home and I see it as a home.

“And you know I'm not a young man, so it would have been terrifying."

Richard Martin is proud of the giant marquee in the grounds of the hotel which has played host to hundreds of weddings and other events in recent years.

“When you come in here you can just see actually how unsuitable this would be for an asylum seekers' venue entirely.

“This is used exclusively for our special events, mainly weddings, and we've hosted 2,500 in here since we created this space.

“And so, for the asylum seekers that were intended to stay here, this has absolutely no purpose and it's a valuable asset for the people in this local area.”

Even though he was being offered a significant sum of money, Richard Martin said he was not even tempted.

“Well, it sounds a lot of money on its own, but our business is very well established and it wouldn't change anything here. And of course it would only be for one hit. So absolutely out of the question.

“We've got clients that have got weddings booked into 2025. We've got staff here that need looking after.

“So our responsibilities are not just to ourselves as shareholders but to our customers and of course all those staff that have worked for us over of years.”

The hotel has luxury glamping cabins that the Home Office wanted to use to house migrants
The hotel has luxury glamping cabins that the Home Office wanted to use to house migrants

The Home Office does not comment on individual asylum seeker hotel contracts. But the government is under enormous pressure to find a solution to the Channel migrant crisis, which has seen more than 42,000 people cross in small boats so far this year.

However, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said recently he was committed to reducing the Home Office’s reliance on hotels, which is costing around £7 million every day.

He also said those asylum seekers housed in hotels should be staying in “basic accommodation”.

No one who has visited the Blazing Donkey hotel in Kent would ever describe the accommodation there as basic.