Claims asylum seekers at hotel led to rise in crime denied by police

Britannia Hotel in Standish
Britannia Hotel in Standish

A CONTROVERSIAL petition calling for asylum seekers to be kicked out of a Wigan hotel is dividing opinion.

Campaign organisers claim stories of muggings and thefts are widespread. And a petition, calling for “economic migrants” to be removed from the Britannia Hotel, has been signed almost 700 times.

I have lived here for 20 years now and I have a lot of friends here, a lot of family in the area and I want to protect that

Ian Adamczyk

But police say there has been absolutely NO rise in crime and Cath Foxon, chairwoman of the Support for Wigan Arrivals Project (Swap), said she was dismayed by the petition.

Standish is awash with rumours of a rise in crime and residents feeling intimidated and harassed by the asylum seekers who are being temporarily housed in the hotel on Almond Brook Road.

And the allegations have prompted two residents to take action.

Ian Adamczyk and Gary Farrimond decided to set up a Facebook page to gauge the feelings of residents in the town and were encouraged to set up the petition.

Ian said: “I have lived here for 20 years now and I have a lot of friends here, a lot of family in the area and I want to protect that.

“I just decided for my own personal reasons just to see if anyone else felt the same. I have seen it around, they are clearly visible in the community.

“You can’t just move people from other countries into a village with no consultation.

“The two cultures are very different, very separate and to try and bring that together with no infrastructure, no thought, no planning, and no regard for the local community, that is wrong.”

Gary added: “I have heard about girls walking to Shevington High School being harassed and intimidated. We’ve heard of people being robbed and mugged.”

Ian added: “The general consensus from the village is they wouldn’t mind helping genuine people, people who need it, who are coming and seeking refuge from war-torn countries who have absolutely nothing, but it doesn’t appear on the face of it, from what we see walking round the village that is the case.

“My own personal view is that illegal immigrants probably shouldn’t be here. I don’t think so, not when there are people in our own country who need help.

“I don’t think people would be too opposed to it if there were women and children here but it seems like everyone who is here is male. I can’t remember seeing a woman or a child with one of the groups.

“I think the concern is the unknown of everything, we don’t know who they are, where they have come from.

“There is a lot of worries there for people who, this isn’t a city where they are used to seeing culture, this is a small village.”

Police in the area say they have not seen an increase in crime in the area.

Ian said that one of the problems is that people are too scared to report some of the incidents to police and is trying to encourage people to do so so they can build up a picture of the alleged crimes.

Neighbourhood sergeant for Standish Alan Potts said: “There has been no increase in crime that we are aware of at the moment.

“If anyone wants to report any incidents they can do so on 101 or 999 if it is an emergency and we will investigate anything thoroughly.”

MP Lisa Nandy hit back at claims she had not been responding to residents’ complaints.

She said: “I’ve written to both Serco and the Home Secretary about the situation at the Britannia Hotel. Serco have yet to respond and the initial response from the Home Office was unsatisfactory.

“I have been in touch with residents to keep them updated and to let them know I will contact them again as soon as I receive a response.”

Peter Layland, Wigan Council’s assistant director for housing, said: “Wigan Council has no control over the use of hotels or numbers. Nor does the council provide any financial assistance to the housing of asylum seekers.

“The council is concerned at the use of hotels to house asylum seekers and has

raised those concerns previously with Serco and the Home Office.

“We will again be seeking further discussions with Serco and the Home Office to make clear our concern and to press for a date when it will end.

“We will also press for further discussions on this matter at a Greater Manchester level. It is important that Wigan borough, like all areas of the country, should play a fair and balanced role in resettling asylum seekers/refugees within the community and in liaison with other councils in the area.

“A humanitarian crisis is taking place and we are an open and friendly borough, as our appeal for donations to refugees earlier in the year proved.

“We are willing to play our part in supporting those in need who are seeking a safe haven.”

Cath Foxon, chair of the Support for Wigan Arrivals Project (Swap), said: “I am very surprised and disappointed that people are objecting to asylum seekers being in Standish.

“The Wigan people have shown enormous generosity towards the Syrian refugees and many of the people in the hotel are awaiting a decision on their future.

“It seems strange that on the one hand they are caring and welcoming to people fleeing persecution and then objecting to them when they get here.”