Row Over Asylum Hostel’s Future

Row over asylum hostel's future

BBC News
June 22, 2007

Plans to turn an asylum hostel into an immigration removal centre could damage regeneration prospects in a coastal town, two councils and a Kent MP claim.

The Nayland Rock Hotel, Margate, is run by Migrant Helpline as accommodation for newly arrived asylum seekers.

The Home Office said falling asylum intake meant the hotel was no longer needed for existing purpose and it was discussing the future with the charity.

Migrant Helpline said the hotel would be used as “supported accommodation”.

'No extra security'

Chief executive of the charity, Annie Ledger, said: “It is absolutely not an immigration removal centre. This is an alternative to detention.

“These families have done nothing wrong, they are just reaching the end of the process in their asylum claims, for the most part, that have not been successful.”

She added: “They will be free to come and go during the day. There will be no extra security laid on and there will be no risk to the local community.”

But Roger Gale MP, Kent County Council, and Thanet District Council claimed the hostel would be a removal centre, and it would damage Margate's regeneration.

Mr Gale, the Conservative MP for Thanet North, said: “We do not intend to become a dumping ground for the Home Office's problems.”

He said: “This is clearly a proposal to turn the Nayland Rock into what effectively will be a prison.”

Thanet council leader Sandy Ezekiel said: “This seems to be a dispersal centre for those asylum seekers that have failed to remain in this country.”

Kent County Council's chief executive, Peter Gilroy, said: “To talk about putting 30 to 40 families who have had their rights of appeal rejected and are being prepared to be taken home to their countries of origin – it's not the right place.”

The Home Office said the immigration removal centre in Dover would continue to be used for the “sole purpose of detaining foreign nationals, including failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, who are awaiting removal or deportation”.