Asylum seekers being housed in 'unsuitable' hotel accommodation in Falkirk

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Concerns have been raised after it was revealed around 50 asylum seekers are staying in a hotel in Falkirk.

Council chiefs have hit out at the decision by the UK Home Office to use the hotel, saying it is totally “unsuitable”.

They say that partners in health, social care, housing and the third sector back up their views.

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The asylum seekers, understood to be all male and mainly from Eritrea in East Africa, have been in Falkirk for around six weeks.

Falkirk Council Leader Cecil Meiklejohn has expressed concerns about the suitability of hotel accommodation for asylum seekersFalkirk Council Leader Cecil Meiklejohn has expressed concerns about the suitability of hotel accommodation for asylum seekers
Falkirk Council Leader Cecil Meiklejohn has expressed concerns about the suitability of hotel accommodation for asylum seekers

The move comes as the Home Office expands its use of hotel accommodation in Scotland, with properties in Aberdeen and Perth also ready to be used.

They have been placed by Mears, the private contractor that houses asylum seekers for the Home Office.

At the start of the pandemic asylum seekers were housed in hotels in Glasgow as an emergency measure.

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However, following a knife incident in one of the city’s hotels last year which left six people injured, no new asylum seekers have been taken by Glasgow.

The Home Office, which provides free accommodation to asylum seekers which applications are being considered, has said Glasgow is the only area to have taken part in the dispersal scheme since it began two decades ago.

Falkirk council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said while the area had a “proud tradition” of accepting refugees, she was concerned about the lack of consultation by the Home Office.

She added that while understanding the pressures the Home Office is under with increasing numbers of asylum seekers arriving, she was concerned lessons had not been learned from Glasgow.

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It is understood that the local authority was contacted with the decision only a short time before the asylum seekers arrived in the district.

Cecil Meiklejohn, Leader of Falkirk Council said: “We have concerns about the suitability of accommodating asylum seekers in hotels, the site of the hotel chosen and the lack of any meaningful consultation by the Home Office with the council or any of the other public bodies impacted by their decision.

"However, we will work with the Home Office and the company managing the placements on their behalf to provide relevant supports to the people placed in the hotel. We have supported the planned resettlement of refugees in Falkirk and continue to do so. Falkirk has a proud tradition of accepting refugees and values the contribution that they have brought to the local area.”

Kenneth Lawrie, Chief Executive said: “We are keen to reiterate our serious doubts about the Home Office’s choice of hotel accommodation, which colleagues across health, social care, housing and the third sector agree is unsuitable for long-term stay.

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“The Home Office is aware of our concerns, which were raised following a very late notification.”

A Home Office spokesperson said “other councils need to step up and play their part too”.

They added: “As a result of the lack of volunteers for the dispersal scheme, the Home Office is forced to find contingency hotel accommodation to house asylum seekers. Our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken system and aims to reform the asylum system to make it fair but firm, enabling us to offer support to those most in need while returning those without a genuine right to remain in the UK.”

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