Taxpayers foot hotel bill for asylum seekers
At least 100 asylum seekers - including some who have recently smuggled themselves into the UK from Calais - are being housed in hotels at the taxpayer's expense, it has been confirmed.
The Mail on Sunday identified hotels in Wigan and Chorley, Lancashire, where recent illegal migrants are receiving bed and board, along with £35 a week spending money.
The paper spoke to one man who told how he had fled war-torn South Sudan, crossed the Mediterranean in a people-trafficker's boat and spent two months in the "Jungle" tent city in Calais before hiding in a lorry going through the Channel Tunnel.
The man, who gave his name only as Adam, said that after being picked up by police, he was placed in a hotel near London for three nights before being taken to Lancashire by coach.
"The situation is really good here, much better than the situations we have been through," he said.
The Home Office contracts out the job of accommodating asylum seekers to private companies, who are responsible for finding them somewhere to stay. A spokesman said hotels are only acceptable "as a short-term contingency measure".
It is understood that Serco, which has contracts to house asylum seekers in the North West, Scotland and Northern Ireland, would normally find places for them in the community, but is using budget hotels in response to the increased numbers of people they are currently required to accommodate. The company said use of hotels was a short-term measure which did not result in any additional cost to the taxpayer.
Jenni Halliday, Serco's contract director for the Compass project to house asylum seekers, said: "We are currently using budget hotels on a short-term basis to house around 100 asylum seekers until we can find alternative accommodation for them.
"We move them out of the hotels into other accommodation as quickly as possible. The use of hotels does not cost the taxpayer anything extra. We ensure that the asylum seekers always have full access to healthcare services during this time. Our priority is at all times to make sure that they are safe and secure and are treated with dignity and respect."
A Home Office spokesman said: "Decisions on the use of hotel accommodation, including which premises are used, are made by individual contractors. We have made clear to our providers that the use of hotels is only ever acceptable as a short-term contingency measure. We are taking steps with providers to ensure that this is the case."
But Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke told the Mail on Sunday: 'It is outrageous that asylum seekers are being put up in hotel rooms at public expense.
"It's this sort of soft touch that makes this country so attractive to migrants. The message should go out that they will be detained in disused military camps."