Asylum seekers housed at hotel
A councillor has responded to concerns about asylum seekers being housed at the Chimney House Hotel in Sandbach.
Almost 50 are staying in the Tudor-style country house on Congleton Road.
It is understood Serco, the company which provides immigration services on behalf of the Government, took a decision earlier this year to place a number of asylum seekers at the Chimney House.
A member of staff told the Chronicle on Tuesday that 49 were staying there and that the hotel was not open for guests.
Sandbach resident Ann Evanson got in touch to say “this group of young unshaven unkempt males are wandering freely outside the hotel grounds with no observation of social distancing. They are very ominous and scary. I for oneam very concerned for safety.”
This week, Coun Sam Corcoran, the leader of Cheshire East Council, who represents Sandbach Heath and East Ward, said he included news on the asylum seekers being looked after by Serco at the hotel in his last newsletter.
He said: “I received several replies to my email newsletter from residents, but only one mentioned the asylum seekers and they simply thanked me for keeping them informed.
“I have been told that there have been some racist comments on social media, but I have not seen these myself. Such comments are regrettable, but I am sure that they are not representative of the people of Sandbach who are generally a welcoming and caring community. Last year, a refugee family was welcomed into Sandbach.”
Coun Corcoran added: “I do have concerns that there are no pavements/safe walking routes to the Chimney House Hotel. I regret that the Government has removed the local authority role in the asylum seekers dispersal programme.
As the ward councillor I will be monitoring the situation.”
The Chronicle asked Serco to comment but it had not responded by deadline yesterday (Wednesday).
A page on Cheshire East Council's website about the asylum seeker dispersal programme says: “This programme is for those who arrive in the UK where their status is to be determined following the submission of an application for asylum. The Home Office haS a contract with a service delivery partner to accommodate and support asylum seekers.
“In the North West, the delivery partner is Serco. Serco sources and equips dispersal accommodation, including maintenance and payment of utility bills, and provides support to individuals to settle within the community while their application is assessed.”
It adds: “Many of our residents and partners, including local faith communities and voluntary services, have been in touch with us to share their support for those seeking asylum and fleeing their home country.”
A Cheshire East Council spokesperson said: “The council has no direct role in the asylum seekers dispersal programme. The programme is for those who arrive in the UK where their status is to be determined following the submission of an application for asylum.
“A decision was taken by Parliament, earlier this year, that participation in the asylum seekers dispersal programme is no longer voluntary for local authorities.
“While we do not have a direct role or control over the programme, we do liaise with Government representatives, regional provider organisations and other local public services agencies regarding the programme.”
Jenni Halliday, Serco contract director for Asylum Seeker Accommodation, said: “Serco has been working extensively with the local community through the local authority officials, the police, NHS and charities to prepare for the arrival of these vulnerable asylum seekers into the community. The overall reaction has been very supportive and we are extremely grateful for the constructive approach that has been taken by most people.
“Serco has taken all appropriate measures and precautions to look after the asylum seekers in our care in line with Government and Public Health England guidelines and instructions.
“All the asylum seekers are issued with robust Public Health England approved written guidance on Covid-19 in respect of social distancing, self-isolation and advice on personal hygiene/self-care.
“Serco is also working closely with the police to ensure that, as with any other member of the population, if any individuals do not follow social distancing guidance when outside the hotel, that we work together to reinforce this message.”