The Government tried to place a ‘considerable number’ of asylum seekers in a Stoke-on-Trent hotel – but was blocked at the ‘eleventh hour’.
It has emerged that the Home Office wanted to place vulnerable people in the city at the height of the pandemic without any consultation.
However, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and MPs stepped in to block the plans at the last minute.
It has not been revealed which hotels the asylum seekers would have been placed in but rough sleepers were given rooms at the Holiday Inn, at Trentham Lakes, as well as The Crown Hotel and The Roebuck Hotel, in Longton.
Council leader Abi Brown said in a statement to the Local Democracy Service: “Earlier this year, at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, we were informed that a considerable number of asylum seekers were to be placed in the city, without prior consultation.
“The council and the city’s MPs expressed serious concerns about this, about the lack of forward planning and consideration for their needs and of the potential impact on the availability of services to support them, given the great strain on resources caused by the coronavirus.
“Stoke-on-Trent is a dispersal area, and some of our wards already support a number of people as they seek asylum.
“Our concerns were listened to at the eleventh hour, but we were not informed of any further plans or locations to house and support the asylum seekers elsewhere.”
The news has emerged after a senior West Midlands Police boss suggested the Government is choosing where to place vulnerable asylum seekers based on a city’s political leadership.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Waheed Saleem said he was worried the Home Office could be be treating areas differently, depending on whether or not their councils are controlled by Labour or the Tories.
A total of 241 asylum seekers were placed into a Birmingham city centre hotel with less than a week’s notice in May, despite objections from Labour city council leader Ian Ward.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is run by a Conservative-Independent coalition.
Mr Saleem said: “Birmingham is a proud city of sanctuary that has welcomed people from across the globe for generations and rightly continues to welcome those fleeing conflicts abroad.
“It is imperative though that there is proper support in place for services when cities host new arrivals and I am worried that the government appears to be potentially treating different areas differently based on their political leadership.
“If that is found to be the case it is extremely worrying indeed.”
The Home Office said accommodation providers are responsible for identifying suitable temporary accommodation in consultation with local authorities, adding authorities were made aware that the government ‘would have to procure hotel contingency across the United Kingdom to meet the challenges we faced during the coronavirus pandemic’.
It says all asylum seekers have been given advice and guidance in their own language around social distancing, and added it was ‘grateful for the assistance of local authorities and will continue to work with them as we now review these measures and return to pre-Covid policy implementation of asylum policy’.