Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale councils sought injunctions over Home Office asylum seeker hotel plans
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Councillors in Wakefield heard details of attempts to take legal action as they debated an urgent motion on the placement of asylum seekers in the district.
The Home Office last week informed Wakefield Council that it intends to increase the number of asylum seeker spaces at Cedar Court hotel, on Denby Dale Road, from 148 to 306.
The move came days after the council was also told that St Pierre Hotel, in Newmillerdam, will be used to temporarily accommodate asylum seekers.
A number of the district’s hotels are already being used to accommodate asylum seekers.
The Labour-run local authority says public services in the district are already under strain as a result of the policy.
Council leader Denise Jeffery told a full council meeting.”We took legal advice from King’s Counsel, alongside Calderdale and Kirklees.
“This advice was specifically sought to highlight the council’s concerns and identify possible avenues of challenge.
“The advice is that there is no obvious legal issue from which we could apply for an injunction to stop this.
“Councils who have done so have largely failed.
“But there are some areas that we can further explore and that will be ongoing.”
Coun Jeffery said a group of the council’s officers is being set up to continue to work with Calderdale and Kirklees.
Councillors from all parties voted unanimously in favour of the motion to continue to hold the government to account for its “abject failure to create an effective, holistic asylum system”.
The motion also pledges to campaign for a law requiring the Home Office to consult councils before placing asylum seekers in hotels in local authority areas.
Coun Jeffery said: “We should support the desire of human beings to live life free from the threats of death, torture and persecution.
“This council totally rejects this Conservative government’s current policy of placing increasing numbers of asylum seekers in the Wakefield district without any consultation with this council to identify issues of concerns arising from local conditions and without sufficient support and funding from both the council and individual asylum seekers.”
Deputy leader Jack Hemingway said: “As a city of sanctuary we have a proud history of supporting refugees fleeing war and persecution.
“We should never shy away from our obligations.
“There is, however, a problem. A problem that cannot be laid at the door of vulnerable people seeking refuge.”
Coun Hemingway accused the government of “staggering incompetence” in its handling of the asylum system.
He added: “We cannot stay silent when a national policy has such an impact on our district.
“When our own concerns as a local government are ridden over roughshod by the Home Office, putting pressure on services.
“Local authorities should be consulted meaningfully before decisions are taken.
“It is in the interests of asylum seekers and our communities that this matter is addressed urgently.”
Conservative group leader Nadeem Ahmed said: “Successive governments, Labour and Conservative, have have not got the asylum policy right.
“The Conservatives inherited the mess that you lot (Labour) left, and probably made it worse.”
Coun Ahmed said he mostly agreed with the motion, but added: “We are a city of sanctuary but we are not making you welcome, or we are making you welcome? Which is it?
“People in Wakefield need to know how many people are coming in, what the consequences on services are in Wakefield and then we need to have some form of say.
“I actually do agree with most of the motion despite the fact that there has been some politicking going on.”
Lib Dem group leader Pete Girt said: “I’d just like to remind everybody that these are human beings we are talking about.
“I would agree that it is the fault of successive governments over many, many years that we have reached this point.
“Housing anyone, whether it be an asylum seeker or a homeless person, is not acceptable.
“We need to do better.”