FOI Request - Asylum Seekers Questions
I would ask the Moray Council to respond to my FOI request questions all of which I believe to be in the public interest.
1. When were public meetings held to inform the people of Elgin that asylum seekers were being accommodated in the town? And if not why not?
2. How many in total are now and will be in the future, accommodated at the Eight Acres hotel?
3. What general background checks and police checks have been completed to establish that these men have no previous criminal records or are escaping criminal justice in their country of origin or have personal mental health issues due to where they have come from and / or the trauma they may have been through?
4. How will any inappropriate behaviours be monitored and responded to in order to keep Elgin citizens safe given these men can come and go as they please and how will the police/ council manage this given they are under immense pressure already with heavy workloads?
5. Where and from whom will these asylum seekers receive medical treatment given local GP surgeries/ dentists and Dr Grays Hospital are already struggling to cope with delivering services the local population as it is?
6. How did the whole process work.. from beginning to end ..for Moray Council to agree to this decision to give asylum seekers refuge in the Eight Acres Hotel Elgin?
7. Was a change of use posted in the public domain to change the hotel from hospitality business use to asylum seekers residential accomodation, as this would no doubt have required Moray Council to check fire and other regulations were met. This building will now have changed from business use to residential use.
8. Like many other regions across Scotland and the wider UK, small towns like Elgin struggle to provide accommodation for tourists and therefore visitors move on and don't spend money in the local economy resulting in other businesses like retailers and cafes lose out. This decision to accommodate Assylum seekers means that 200 rooms have been displaced from the local economy reducing visitor numbers with spending power these assylum seekers by definition do not have. Have Moray Council consulted with Moray Speyside Tourism and Moray Chamber of Commerce to establish the impact this decision is likely to have on the Moray Economy overall.. and if not..why not?
1. Asylum Contingency Hotels are a Home Office initiative led by Mears Property & Care Providers. Local authorities are not directly responsible for contingency hotels but we are working in partnership with the Home Office and Mears. Home Office policy is not to announce an asylum hotel or facilitate community engagement; the reason for this is to protect the privacy of the individuals living within the hotels. However, Moray Council persuaded the Home Office to agree to a Pilot Pro-Active Community Engagement approach, emphasising the need to inform and reassure our local community. They agreed and we have facilitated: two newspaper articles, an interview on the local radio station, a stakeholder event for professional partners, a stakeholder event for the Community Council and we have a further two planned stakeholder events, one for schools and one for the public. The date of the public event will be advertised once confirmed and is likely to be late June.
2. The Elgin Contingency Hotel has capacity for 50 individuals; there will be no more than 50 accommodated in Moray.
3. The Home Office carry out security and health checks on their arrival into the UK. During the processing period their biometric data is recorded (facial recognition and fingerprints) and they are issued with an identity card. They undergo a further health assessment on arrival at their contingency hotel.
4. Any inappropriate behaviours will be managed by Police Scotland in the same manner as they would manage anyone behaving inappropriately. Police statistics and intelligence show that people seeking asylum are more likely to be victims of crime, than perpetrators of crime. Unfortunately some young men living in the Elgin asylum hotel have already been victimised by a group of Elgin youths and are now too traumatised to leave the hotel.
5. There will be minimal impact on Moray GP practices. A Health Care Professional (HCP) has been assigned to the hotel. Their role is to carry out Health Assessments on arrival and register the individuals with a GP. The HCP will also triage and treat minor ailments at the hotel reducing the need for GP appointments. The individuals are young males and therefore do not require the care of chronic health conditions associated with older generations.
6. Historically, the majority of Asylum accommodation has been in England and Glasgow. The Minister for Safe and Legal Migration wrote to all local authorities informing councils that the Home Office is now seeking to extend across the whole of the UK, including all 32 councils in Scotland. This is because of the sustained and unprecedented pressure on the Asylum system caused by large numbers of individuals arriving into the UK.
As per question 1, Asylum Contingency Hotels are a Home Office initiative; they do not consult with local authorities but inform them that they are setting up an asylum hotel in their area. Hotels are procured by the Government Property Contractors Mears. The decision to use a particular hotel for asylum seekers lies with the owner of the hotel.
7. The response to this request can be found here: http://www.moray.gov.uk/moray_standard/page_148361.html This information is therefore exempt under section 25 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, information otherwise accessible.
8. Refer to answer 6 above. This enquiry should be directed to the Home Office FOI Team at FOIRequests@homeoffice.gov.uk
If any further detail are required in relation asylum contingency hotels please contact the Home Office FOIRequests@homeoffice.gov.uk