‘THE OVERALL reaction has been incredibly supportive’ – those were the words of the Serco contract director about the emergency placing of asylum seekers at the Bromsgrove Hotel and Spa.
Jenni Halliday said Serco had worked extensively with the local community through the local authority officials, the police, NHS and charities to prepare for the arrival of the vulnerable asylum seekers into the community.
“The overall reaction has been incredibly supportive and we are extremely grateful for the constructive approach that has been taken by most people.”
She added Serco had taken all appropriate measures and precautions to look after the asylum seekers in its care in line with Government and PHE 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.”
Rumours on social media suggested the move could be a permanent arrangement but, after being contacted by The Standard, the Home Office (HO) confirmed this was not the case.
A HO spokesperson said: “We have moved asylum seekers, where necessary to do so, into temporary accommodation to protect them and ensure social distancing.
“This is to help stop the spread of coronavirus in line with public health guidance.
“We would like to acknowledge the work that local authorities have done to support these temporary arrangements.“
We reported last month the group of around 140 was moved to the town because of the impact the virus and subsequent lockdown had on the system.
Usually when processed and approved, applicants are then released from the free accommodation housing them, but that cannot be done with restrictions in place.
Adding to that, new claims are still arising so extra capacity is needed.
The Standard understands the measures will be reviewed in line with public health guidance towards the end of June and unwound as soon as is safe to do so.
A range of measures have been put in place to support asylum seekers affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the situation is being closely monitored.
After concerns expressed by residents about the arrangement and claims of social distancing breaches we contacted West Mercia Police.
Ch Insp Ed Hancox said: “We are working with local partners and the Home Office to ensure the impact on the local community continues to be managed sensitively and my officers are providing visible reassurance and support in the area.
“We are dealing with any issues in the community as we would normally do to ensure everyone stays safe during these challenging times.”
Bromsgrove District Council leader Coun Karen May told the Standard last month the move was a contract between the Home Office and Serco.
Usually the Home Office consulted local authorities but because these were emergency measures in response to the pandemic there was not time to do so on this occasion.
“This is not a case of Bromsgrove being singled out – there are a number of towns and cities in the Midlands and the north of England which will be housing these vulnerable people who have no family or support in the UK.”