South Thanet Craig Mackinlay MP has called on the Government to withdraw plans to use The Glenwood Hotel in Cliftonville for asylum seeker accommodation.
The South Thanet MP made the request to Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, earlier this week during a Ministerial Statement to update MPs on ‘illegal’ migration.
The 2 star hotel in Edgar Road has 21 rooms.
Mr Mackinlay said: “I’m very unhappy that The Glenwood Hotel in Cliftonville is being readied to house migrants from September 20.
“East Kent is already bearing the brunt of the great burden caused by the continuing influx of migrants crossing the Channel in boats.
“That’s why I have asked the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, to withdraw the use of Glenwood as contingency accommodation. The Minister has agreed to look into this and I’m continuing to monitor the situation closely.”
Mr Jenrick said he understood “the unique pressures that Kent faces” and would look into the matter.
During his update to Parliament on Tuesday (September 5) Mr Jenrick also said: “We have made significant improvements at Manston since last year, and it continues to operate as an effective site for security, health and initial asylum checks, despite the pressure of the summer months.
“We have worked to ensure that when migrants depart Manston they are now heading to cheaper and more appropriate accommodation, by rolling out room sharing and delivering our large accommodation sites.
“Those sites are undoubtedly in the national interest, but the Government continue to listen to the concerns of local communities and Members of this House, and throughout the summer further engagement has taken place to ensure that those sites are delivered in the most orderly way possible.”
Thanet council concerns
Thanet council was notified about the intended use of the Glenwood Hotel but says an alternative location should be used.
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The council received notification from the government about its intention to use the Glenwood Hotel in Cliftonville as contingency accommodation for asylum seekers. The council responded to the Secretary of State for the Home Department expressing strong concerns related to this proposal and urged that an alternative location be considered.
“The council recognises the need for accommodation for asylum seeker households and is fully participating in government-funded schemes to support refugees and asylum seekers.
“The proposal to use this location however risks undermining a great deal of work done previously to tackle deprivation, improve housing conditions, reduce the transient nature of the community in the area and promote community cohesion.
“The council was also clear in its correspondence that changing the use of the hotel would require planning consent, which has not been sought.
“The council did not receive an adequate response to the concerns raised.”
Ramsgate county councillor Karen Constantine has branded the MP’s response as “unkind.”
She said: “Craig Mackinlay’s response to this humanitarian crisis is frankly, unkind and misjudged. What we really need from our local MP, is for him to lobby his own government for safe, fast and effective roots and procedures, so that asylum seekers can have their claims quickly assessed and then be dispersed across the UK.
“The benefit of this would be that the cost to the state would be far less and many of these people, as research has shown, are keen to enter the labour market and become taxpayers, making a positive impact.
“We have a significant skills shortage in the UK and welcoming asylum seekers with the right skills, and the right attitude would be one way to address this retractable problem.
“It is also quite unbelievable that The Glenwood Hotel, with such a small number of rooms, would be such a problem. There are much bigger issues that need our MP’s urgent and focused attention.
“I’m afraid our MP is resorting to ‘dog whistle’ style politics as his vote share, ahead of an anticipated General Election puts him in second place to Labour contender Polly Billington.
“Both are expected to contest the new East Thanet seat. Labour is now heavily tipped to gain the seat from the Tories, with a swing of 5.7%. Mackinlay’s vote share has been assessed as 41.4% and Polly Billington is now leading with 47.2% in Labour’s favour.
“Little wonder he wants to distract voters from his declining popularity.”
A Home Office spokesperson 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.
“The Home Office is committed to making every effort to reduce hotel use and limit the burden on the taxpayer. This is why we have been looking at a range of alternative accommodation sites, including vessels which have been used safely and successfully by Scottish and Dutch Governments and former military sites.”
The Home Office previously said all local authority areas in England, Scotland and Wales became an asylum dispersal area by default on 13 April 2022. Officials say the shift to ‘Full Dispersal’ will increase the number of suitable properties that can be procured for ‘destitute asylum seekers.’
More than £21million in un-ringfenced grant funding has been committed to make sure eligible LAs can provide wraparound support locally. Local authorities receive £3,500 per bed space for dispersal accommodation.
Asylum-seeker accommodation in the south is managed by Clearsprings Ready Homes which has a 10-year contract in England and Wales and, along with Serco, has the contract for the government’s adult asylum dispersal scheme.
The value of the Clearsprings contract is £662 million for operations in the South and £334 million for Wales totalling £996 million for the 10 year period.
The intention of the scheme is that by distribution across the country no one area will be overburdened with giving accommodation support.
However, last year Mr Jenrick in a meeting with Kent authority leaders pledged that Thanet and Dover would be excluded from the dispersal allocation as both districts were already providing facilities by way of processing centres.
The UN Refugee Convention recognises people fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means to escape and claim asylum in another country.
Those who are trying to seek asylum in the UK often have ties to the country such as family members who live here or they speak the language.
The Refugee Council and other charities have called for the UK to provide safe and legal routes for those seeking asylum to travel to the UK.
Manston centre to be surveyed as part of ‘rapid construction’ proposal to ‘scale up detention capacity’