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Decision reversed to temporarily house asylum seekers at Palms Hotel in Hornchurch

The hotel is adjacent to the A127 in Hornchurch (credit: Google Maps)

Palms Hotel in Hornchurch is no longer going to be used to house asylum seekers, after concerns were raised about the living conditions in the building.

Around 200 people were said to be set to stay temporarily in the hotel, which is alongside the A127, according to Havering Council.

The council’s leader, Damian White, had set up a petition, calling on the Home Office to reverse the decision to use the hotel.

He said an investigation by the London Fire Brigade found it would require extensive work to make the building safe.

Cllr White also said that the location was isolated and wouldn’t allow the residents to access supermarkets and pharmacies.

More than 6,000 people had signed the petition but the Home Office has now confirmed to Time 107.5 that the hotel will not be used and those who are there are in the process of being moved.

In a letter to her constituents, Hornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez wrote: “As residents will be aware, I was concerned that there had been so little notice of this intended use of the Palms Hotel and that I had not been notified of it directly as the local Member of Parliament. With so little information, I shared residents’ concerns about potential unanticipated and unaccounted for pressure on local health and education services.

“I raised those concerns in my conversations with the Minister and Special Adviser this morning. They explained that since the government is statutorily obliged to house asylum seekers, councils and other stakeholders like schools and health providers do not need to be notified if an asylum seeker is to be accommodated in a local authority area. Since the groups of people being housed at any one time in this way tend to be small, their presence is not flagged to a community.

“The number of people to be housed at Palms had the potential to be larger because of the pandemic circumstances outlined above. However, this would have been a strictly time-limited arrangement which in any case is not now going ahead. Any residents there have either now moved or will be moving in the next few days.”

Julia Lopez, speaking in the House of Commons in 2018

The Home Office said the coronavirus outbreak has had an impact on the usual process of dealing with asylum seekers.

They are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation while their applications are considered.

But during the pandemic, those who have had their claims rejected have been kept in accommodation and supported, to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Accommodation providers had been sourcing extra places to house asylum seekers and the Home Office says it has been monitoring the situation closely to ensure they are adequately supported.

The spokesperson added that Palms Hotel was used for a “brief period to fulfil our statutory obligation to house asylum seekers” but it has now been stood down.

Other measures to support asylum seekers who are in temporary accommodation include giving them guidance in their own language relating to hygiene, washing hands, social distancing, coronavirus symptoms, and what to do if they become symptomatic.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We have made temporary arrangements given that, across the system, asylum seekers have not vacated their accommodation to stop the spread of coronavirus, meaning more spaces have been needed to ensure that social distancing and public health guidance can be followed.

“We would like to acknowledge the work of local authorities and thank them for their help.”

For more on this story, and the latest on our other local and national news, listen to Time 107.5FM

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