Council leader raises 'serious health concerns' over asylum seekers at hotel

Concerned - Colchester Council leader, David King, has raised concerns over the welfare of asylum seekers in Colchester. <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Concerned - Colchester Council leader, David King, has raised concerns over the welfare of asylum seekers in Colchester. (Image: Newsquest)

Colchester Council's leader has once again written to the government saying he has further evidence many of the asylum seekers placed at a hotel are not being looked after as expected.

Concerns were raised over asylum seekers' welfare while they were staying at the Holiday Inn, in Dedham, following a response from the Minister of State for Immigration to a letter sent by David King to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, back in February.

The letter raised concerns over the unsuitability of the hotel with Robert Jenrick restating the duties, obligations and responsibilities placed on Home Office contingency hotels.

Whilst the minister admitted the hotel was "having problems registering asylum seekers with a local GP", he said there is a weekly outreach service and a daily minibus service to the city centre and the hotel was not "unsuitably located".

He said the rooms were cleaned on a weekly basis with cleaning supplies also available for asylum seekers to clean their own rooms.

However, the minister raised concerns after hearing about problems being encountered with asylum seekers and with the food available to them, asking that issues be raised with his officials.

Responding to the minister’s letter, Mr King has stressed the need for urgent reform.

The widespread scabies outbreak is now reportedly under control, but serious health concerns remain at the hotel, including a lack of suitable medication and problems arranging repeat prescriptions, Mr King has said.

One of the areas of concern is GP visits only occur on an ad hoc basis with only a few individuals seen at a time, Mr King added.

He also pointed out the minibus service was not provided by the Home Office but has instead been provided by the council’s voluntary sector partners.

Other concerns include hotel food being airline-style plastic tubs bused in and reheated, with issues around mould and hygiene.

One asylum seeker, who was belatedly diagnosed with cancer, faced delays booking transport to and from the hospital and was forced to walk home despite acute ill health.

Mr King said: “I felt it was important to respond to the Minister of State for Immigration to explain how his arrangements continue to fall below the standards of care expected.

“I have not been reassured, from what the minister said in his letter, that he knows what is happening which is why I have invited him to visit us and see for himself the lives of those in his and our care.

"We and our partners will of course do whatever we can to help.

"But the situation as it stands, which is of the Government’s own making, is just not good enough. We have a duty of care, and I must voice our concerns about what we see.”