20th Oct, 2020

Coventry MP learnt about the housing of asylum seekers in city on Twitter, MPs told as Home Office slammed

Editorial Correspondent 2nd Oct, 2020 Updated: 2nd Oct, 2020

A COVENTRY MP discovered that asylum seekers were being housed at a Coventry hotel via Twitter, MPs heard yesterday (Thursday, October 1) as the Home Office came under fire.

The Chair of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, yesterday confronted Home Office representatives about their failure to notify local MPs and Coventry City Council about the housing of asylum seekers in Coventry.

In the meeting she said: “The MP for Coventry North West sought me out last night to make the point that people had been moved to Coventry from Birmingham.  She found this out on Twitter, as had everyone else in the area.

“…You’re talking the talk, but colleague after colleague and their local authorities have not been informed about changes.  You do need to hear that very firmly.”

It comes as MPs were yesterday told more than 9,000 asylum seekers are living in 91 hotels across the country after a record year for Channel crossings.

Coventry North West MP  Taiwo Owatemi had raised the issue with Meg Hillier revealing that the Home Office had arranged for the rehousing of a “significant number of asylum seekers in a Coventry hotel” without informing local service providers or authorities.

Still at the height of the pandemic, the rehousing was felt to be “a significant risk to public health and the health of those being rehoused with no additional provisions offered by the government to mitigate these risks”.

Taiwo Owatemi said: “This incident is yet another in a series of failures in communication and competence from the Conservative government to fulfil the most basic of duties.”

The Labour MP has been working with local organisations and making representations on behalf of existing asylum seekers in hotels across the city to ensure they and local services receive the help they need. She said:“Coventry is proud to be an official City of Refuge. But we cannot offer refuge safely and effectively if we are being boxed out of conversations, under-resourced and under-supported by central Government.”

Taiwo Owatemi had previously criticised Matt Hancock for failing to provide adequate Covid-19 testing  in Coventry after a local child was sent to Scotland to receive a test. She said: “It is abundantly clear that the mistakes of this Government is holding Coventry and the rest of the country back.”

But the Home Office refuted the claims made in Parliament.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “These claims are completely untrue, we have been in consultation with the local authority throughout the procurement process.

“The Home Office has a statutory obligation to provide asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute with accommodation and support.

“In response to the unprecedented public health emergency, we have had to house a number of asylum seekers in hotels as a temporary measure.

“We are working with local authorities across the UK to secure the suitable longer term accommodation that is required and are keeping the measures under review in line with public health guidance.”

The Government deparment said it wrote to local authorities at the end of March to make councils aware that the Home Office would procure asylum accommodation across the UK, including in areas that might not have previously been dispersal areas.

Using hotels and serviced apartments as asylum accommodation was, the Home Office said, a temporary  contingency option and accommodation providers were securing longer-term accommodation to meet specific needs.


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