SOUTHPORT MP Damien Moore has requested more information on plans to house around 150 asylum seekers at the Scarisbrick Hotel on Lord Street.
Mr Moore believes that the using the hotel as temporary accommodation during the lockdown is ‘impractical’ and has asked for more information from Sefton Council. Amongst the concerns raised were access to healthcare, support through their transition to living in the United Kingdom and living conditions. He also flagged concerns around the length of time they would be expected to stay in the hotel whilst respecting the importance of self-isolation during the lockdown period.
Mr Moore said: “I have every sympathy for people who are fleeing their homeland to escape persecution and we rightly should help them. Southport has a long and proud history of supporting those who are fleeing persecution.
“It is not practical however to place almost 150 asylum seekers in a single hotel – during this period of lockdown - with no realistic timeframe of when they will be housed or integrated into our community. The government has announced that some limitations could remain in place for a while longer and I share the concern for the welfare of those asylum seekers who may be restricted for months to come.
“I am also concerned by the lack of information that has been made available to the local authorities by Serco. The decision to accommodate 150 asylum seekers will have a significant impact on both council and police resources when the focus of our efforts is rightly centred on fighting the coronavirus during this period. No doubt this was something Serco considered when placing such a significant number of people in our town.”
Dukes Ward Councillor Ron Watson added: “Damien has outlined in a very practical and pragmatic manner why the agreement between Britannia Hotels, who own the Scarisbrick, and those responsible for finding accommodation for asylum seekers are very valid but also very troubling.
“To transfer such a significant number of people and take over one of our most prominent hotels right in the middle of our town centre is something which it is very difficult to even attempt to justify, especially under the current circumstances.
“With the current restrictions on travel, the logistical arrangements are very difficult to envisage and are bound to put a strain on services that are already hard pressed. I’m sure that all councillors representing the area will support our MP who is working very hard to obtain a sensible solution.”
Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council, said: “Like Southport’s MP Damien Moore, the Council has every sympathy for people who are fleeing their homeland to escape persecution and has, previously, passed a Full Council motion, supported by all political parties, which welcomed asylum seekers into our Borough.
“Ultimately, the placing of asylum seekers is the responsibility of the Home Office, supported by public services provider Serco Group plc, and the Council is keen to work with them to help these people who have had to flee their homes, possibly because of war or human rights abuses.”
Councillor Tony Brough, leader of the Sefton Conservative Group said: “Provision has been made to accommodate a group of asylum seekers in a Southport hotel.
“Most folk will, I trust, have some sympathy for the claimants’ situation and they might also appreciate that the group’s placement is transient and uncertain.
“It would be entirely disingenuous of anyone to express compassion and empathy for the plight of these people unless they are content to accept their status as temporary residents of our town and treat them without discernment.”
The Sefton Conservative Group clarified that the decision of where to place Serco clients was not a matter that involved Sefton Council or its Elected Members. The agreement between Britannia Hotels and Serco was an exclusive commercial undertaking. They said that whilst they understand the placement might cause ‘concerned about possible impacts that a new group of vulnerable people might have upon local public services’ that ‘it is important to bear in mind that wherever Serco’s clients might be placed in Sefton, additional pressure on services would need to be met.’
They also said that there is ‘little doubt that for those who may have lost everything or face significant risk of harm to themselves and their families in their native land – asylum may provide their only avenue of escape to safety.’