City leaders strongly object to plans to use hotel for asylum seekers, and call on other parts of the UK to match its support
City leaders have strongly objected to the Home Office using a prominent hotel to house asylum seekers.
The warning comes as Stoke-on-Trent is already sensitively supporting around 920 families and single people – more than many other areas across the UK – and has helped many thousands of people since being designated an asylum dispersal area in the 1990s.
Now city leaders are telling the government department that it must find locations in others areas of the country instead of making arrangements to bypass the city council and house asylum seekers at the privately-operated North Stafford Hotel, immediately opposite Stoke Station – a major gateway into the city.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown said: “Stoke-on-Trent rightly has a reputation for being one of the most welcoming cities in the country and we’ve recently been voted the kindest place in the UK.
“That’s because in Stoke-on-Trent we care about people and want to help. We’ve proven time and again that at times of crisis we stand up to be counted – most recently supporting families fleeing Syria, families escaping the war in Afghanistan and pledging our support to the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
“We have consistently done our bit while other areas of the country have kept quiet or stood back. At one point we had one of the highest rates of asylum seekers per head of population in the country. This is about seeking fairness in the way that asylum dispersal is distributed across the country, and frankly there are many other places that haven’t done a fraction of the work we have.
“But this isn’t about finger pointing; it’s about doing what is right by people who need help the most. We have very real concerns about the impact on services, on communities and on our ability to be able to give the right support to vulnerable people at a time of such major upheaval and crisis in their lives.
“We’re objecting in the strongest terms to the North Stafford Hotel being used as a dispersal hotel. Asking our city to support potentially many more asylum seekers in this way is not fair on anyone.
“We understand that the numbers of people seeking refuge in the UK is at an unprecedented level, and that the Home Office is working swiftly in the face of this demand. But I’m calling on the system to be properly thought through so that rushed decisions aren’t bad decisions and the welfare of the people who need help the most is considered first. We have already worked hard behind the scenes to successfully persuade the Home Office to not set up hotels in our city in the recent past. We will continue to robustly monitor and challenge how this initiative is implemented. That includes scrutinising any proposals to use any hotels in the city for this purpose to ensure that other areas who have not so far provided any support are considered first and that any accommodation set up in the city is of a satisfactory standard and is not going to have any adverse consequences for local communities.”
The news comes as the council’s cabinet is set to consider refugee and asylum support in the city at a meeting next Tuesday (11 October). Cabinet members will be asked to use new funding to provide extra resource to act as a single point of contact for all asylum seeker and refugee matters in the city. Councillors will also be asked to agree an approach to supporting unaccompanied asylum seeker children which considers the cost and resources to care for their safety and vulnerabilities.