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Morecambe MP and council leader speak out after "last minute" news of asylum seekers plan for hotel

Councillor Caroline Jackson and David Morris MP

The Morecambe MP and a council leader have spoken out after receiving "last minute" notice that asylum seekers would be housed in a hotel in the West End.

David Morris and Councillor Caroline Jackson, leader of Lancaster City Council, have both raised concerns about the hotel being used as asylum accommodation.

Beyond Radio knows the identity of the hotel but we have chosen not to name it due to concerns over the vulnerable people who will be housed there.

Mr Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said he'd had a "last minute notification" that the hotel would be used and that he'd been told it was a short-term arrangement.

"Following urgent work with officials and the (Immigration) Minister over the weekend following a last-minute notification the hotel would be used, I have assurance from Home Office officials this is a temporary measure which will be resolved in a matter of weeks," he told Beyond Radio.

"I will be having further meetings with Home Office ministers and we continue to monitor the situation to make sure this situation is temporary only, and that no further asylum seekers are placed at this hotel.

"We are a small community who have also welcomed a number of refugees but we cannot be treated as an overspill from (the Manston migrant centre in) Kent and I am awaiting further meetings with ministers on the impending changes to the law on asylum processing and status to ensure no further hotels are used for this purpose in the district.

"We are a welcoming society and we understand people want to come here because we are a great society to live in. But a lot of disruption in a small area like Morecambe can have an adverse effect. I don't want that for anyone who lives here or comes here."

Mr Morris, speaking on Monday on BBC North West Tonight, also said: "I'm very proud of my community. We are a very caring and inclusive community. We are the kind of community that steps up when people are in hardship.

"But say 80 people are coming into the area, the area is not equipped to take that."

The city council said it was told via email on Friday with "less than 24 hours' notice", then immediately contacted the Home Office to ask about how local services would be affected.

Councillor Caroline Jackson, leader of the council, said: “The Lancaster district has a long and proud reputation of helping those who are fleeing wars and conflict in their own countries, but it is simply unacceptable for decisions like these to be made without any local consultation.

“Local housing conditions, and the potential effect any placements could have on local services, need to be fully considered first and we do not think that this proposal is the right one for either the asylum seekers or the community.

“We have repeatedly made strong representations to the Home Office and urged them to fully consult and involve the council and other local partners before making these decisions, something they have manifestly failed to do so far.”

We also spoke to Morecambe hotelier Paul Bury, owner of the Lothersdale Hotel in central Morecambe, who said he supported the use of the hotel in the West End.

"The government is in need of accommodation, there is a demand there," he said.

"It's best to have it open and running rather than derelict.

"If that means they take a government contract on, they are meeting a demand that the government has. I see no issue with it.

"The people they are going to be housing are fleeing war zones and persecution. I put myself in their shoes."

Many UK hotels have been used as temporary homes for people arriving in the UK from overseas.

The Home Office has struck deals with hotel owners to house asylum seekers as a "short-term solution to the global migration crisis".

A spokesperson for the Home Office said they do not comment on operational arrangements for individual sites used for asylum accommodation.

He 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 use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 37,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £5.6m a day. The use of hotels is a short-term solution and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation.”

He said the Home Office engages with local authorities as early as possible whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation and work to ensure arrangements are safe for hotel residents and local people.

The spokesperson said they ensure the accommodation provided is safe, secure, leaves no one destitute and is appropriate for an individual’s needs.

He said the Home Office was "working hard to find appropriate dispersed accommodation for migrants, asylum seekers and Afghan refugees as soon as possible" and has urged local authorities to do all they can to help house people permanently.

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