Protestors demand answers over controversial decision to house asylum seekers in plush Wigan hotel
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Both protestors and Wigan Council disagree with the Home Office decision to house those fleeing danger abroad in Kilhey Court Hotel. This stance was reiterated by Coun Dane Anderton at the latest full council meeting who stated he wanted to see councils consulted on these matters by the Home Office in future.
They believe the hotel is unsuitable for asylum seekers due to the location having a lack of local amenities, limited public transport, national speed limit road without a pavement on the doorstep.
They were met by a counter protest on Believe Square who wanted to state that ”refugees are welcome here”. Although the atmosphere was tense between the two sides, the protests remained peaceful – as promised by organiser Coun Maureen O’Bern.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and the council both wrote to the government office last month calling on them to rethink their plan. However, protestors who rallied together before the latest full council meeting, want the local authority to do more in order to change the Home Office’s mind.
Coun O’Bern wants the council to take out an injunction against the Home Office decision. She believes this influx of migrants can lead to lost jobs, amenities and increase pressure on local health services.
The Britannia Hotel, also in Standish, has been used to house asylum seekers for several years.
Speaking at the protest held on Believe Square next door to the town hall, Coun O’Bern said: “The protest is against the government and their handling of the migrant crisis. More and more people are coming into the country illegally every day and staying in hotels.
“We already have one hotel with them in. Kilhey Court has been taken over, people have lost jobs and wedding bookings at the hotel have been cancelled.
“It will impact the infrastructure of the area. We have not been given enough information about who these people are, where they come from and why they are here.”
Two separate petitions opposing the housing of asylum seekers at Kilhey Court have recently been handed into Number 10 Downing Street – one by the Independent councillor for Ince Coun O’Bern and the other by former councillor Gareth Fairhurst who represents Standish Views Matter.
In his latest response to these boroughwide concerns, Coun Anderton, portfolio holder for police, crime and civil contingencies, told the full council: “I firmly believe, and hope, that nobody in this chamber wants to turn anyone away who is fleeing some of the most harsh and horrific conditions in the world. Equally we can’t help everybody.”
Coun Laura Flynn, supporting the motion, added: “We are all losing money. It is costing us to provide services for every asylum seeker who is housed in our borough.
“Far more than the meagre amount provided by the government, per asylum seeker (£750). And the worst bit about it, we were never even asked.
“No consultation, no discussion, no process to agree or disagree, no process to object or appeal – nothing. We were told it was happening.
“A commercial deal had been done between Macdonald Hotels (who run Kilhey Court Hotel) and SERCO and we, as Wigan Council, the local authority and as local communities in Worthington and Standish, have to pick up the pieces.”
Coun Anderton said the council are taking all the appropriate channels in order to make their voice heard on this issue.
Councillors representing Standish spoke out at full council updated the chamber on the four star hotel, which has seen the pool drained and gym equipment cleared.
A Home Office spokesperson has said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels and has put our asylum system under incredible strain.
“We have been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6m a day
“The Home Office is committed to making every effort to reduce hotel use and limit the burden on the taxpayer.”
Coun Anderton’s motion, urging the council to continue its opposition to the Home Office decision, was approved by a majority vote.