Hotel asylum seekers have 'gone missing' weeks after hundreds arrive 'without warning'

Up to five asylum seekers have “disappeared” after being temporarily housed in a Black Country hotel.

Thousands of migrants entered the country last year on small boats and were temporarily housed in hotels
Thousands of migrants entered the country last year on small boats and were temporarily housed in hotels

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird said the migrants had “gone missing” after they were put up in a hotel in the borough by the Home Office.

The Express & Star understands a further three migrants were rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties.

A total of 240 asylum seekers – including 105 from Afghanistan – are being temporarily housed in Walsall under a deal with the Home Office’s contractor Serco.

Council chiefs say they arrived without warning, and it is understood the authority had initially been told to expect 40 under the dispersal scheme.

Conservative Mr Bird accused Serco of treating asylum seekers “like pieces of meat”, saying they had been “dumped” on the council and left with “little or no resources”.

He told the Express & Star: “Four or five of them have gone missing, unfortunately. They have disappeared and frankly I think this whole situation has been a disgrace.

“We, as the authority, had to get them replacement clothes because Serco do not care. Serco say their priority is about the safety of refugees, but I would disagree and my officers would disagree as well.

“They are being treated as pieces of meat. Serco has dumped them on this authority and they are being treated poorly.”

Mr Bird said the asylum seekers “speak 10 different languages” and had been left with “little or no resources”. “The Government and Serco need to get a grip of this,” he added.

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird

Jenni Halliday, Serco contract director for asylum accommodation, said: “Our first priority is the care and wellbeing of the asylum seekers we are housing and we are confident that we are providing the appropriate standard of accommodation and support.

“The asylum seekers who are accommodated at the hotel are free to come and go as they wish and we have no authority to prevent them doing so.

“We have already apologised to the council for the lack of prior notice for the asylum seekers who arrived at the hotel last month.”

A Home Office spokesperson said the huge numbers of migrants arriving in Britain – many of them from across the Channel on small boats – had put the asylum system “under incredible strain”.

“The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable.

“We engage with local authorities as early as possible whenever sites are used for asylum accommodation and work to ensure arrangements are safe for hotel residents and local people.”

The Home Office has a national absconder tracing team to track down migrants who disappear before a decision is made on their asylum claim. Once they are tracked their claim may be withdrawn.

There are currently more than 45,500 asylum seekers in hotels in the UK, costing taxpayers £5.6m a day, according to the Home Office.

Across the West Midlands more than 1,000 asylum seekers are being put up in at least 22 hotels.

They include hotels in South Staffordshire, Cannock and Wolverhampton.

Councils across the West Midlands have been at loggerheads with the Home Office for years over asylum, with leaders saying the region has been used as a dumping ground for migrants while other parts of the country have catered for very few.

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