A Wigan hotel which was controversially used to house asylum seekers will no longer do so, the authorities have confirmed.
News that Serco has taken the Britannia Hotel in Standish off its list of venues offering a temporary base for people fleeing war and persecution while their claims are assessed was welcomed by Wigan’s MP and a local charity working with asylum seekers.
It was very difficult to work out how we could best support asylum seekers in the Britannia because sometimes they were only there a matter of daysMick Taylor
Lisa Nandy and the project co-ordinator at the Support For Wigan Arrivals Project (Swap) Mick Taylor both said the Almond Brook Road hotel was totally unsuitable for the purpose.
It is believed those who were still staying there awaiting news on their claims to remain in Britain from the Home Office have been taken to other Serco accommodation across the region.
The decision to use the Britannia Hotel proved controversial, with some residents openly criticising the presence of asylum seekers and a petition demanding their removal being circulated in Standish.
The use of the building also provoked uglier scenes and examples of outright racism, including a far-right group staging a protest outside the hotel and one campaigner being given a community sentence in court for posting racial hatred online.
However, those backing Serco’s decision to stop using the facility stressed that many residents had also sought to help the asylum seekers and hoped lessons had been learned. Ms Nandy said: “It was totally unsuitable for vulnerable asylum seekers who were placed there without any preparation or discussion with local people.
“It’s a credit to Wigan that so many people responded with warmth and kindness but placing vulnerable young men and families into a hotel with minimal support is not acceptable and should not happen again.”
Mr Taylor said: “It is not appropriate to house people in hotels and Swap’s view is that we are glad they are no longer using it. It shows there have been more people arriving than properties available and the system is now working better.
“It was very difficult to work out how we could best support asylum seekers in the Britannia because sometimes they were only there a matter of days. In all the time people were housed there we had contact with one asylum seeker who had acute health problems and where we provided extra support. They were also granted refugee status in the hotel, which is very rare.”
Jenni Halliday, Serco’s COMPASS Contract Director, said: “Because the number of asylum seekers in our care has doubled over the past four years, we have had to use hotels to house some of them for the first days before moving them into housing in the community. We have been working hard to increase the number of local authorities in the North West where we can house asylum seekers and as a result I am pleased to say that today we no longer have any asylum seekers staying in hotels.”