Calderdale councillor rejects rivals’ ‘vile’ asylum seeker comments claim

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A Calderdale councillor has rejected accusations by a rival political party that comments he has made about asylum seekers to be housed in a hotel posing a “security risk” are “vile”.

Calderdale Liberal Democrats say they have written to Calderdale Conservatives questioning whether Coun Jacob Cook’s views over use of the Old Golf House Hotel, Outlane, are representative of the party.

But Coun Cook (Con, Greetland and Stainland) says his concerns relate specifically to fire safety and security issues around the use of the Mears Group managed hotel to house asylum seekers.

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He also says his concerns are shared by Kirklees Council, West Yorkshire Police and Outlane ward councillors in Kirklees – parts of Outlane are in the Greetland and Stainland ward and Liberal Democrats picked up on a solcial media post by Coun Cook about the issue.

Coun Jacob Cook (Con, Greetland and Stainland)Coun Jacob Cook (Con, Greetland and Stainland)
Coun Jacob Cook (Con, Greetland and Stainland)

The Liberal Democrats said his comments were “vile”, coming “at a time the nation is watching the horrors people are facing fleeing the Taliban.”

Coun Sue Holdsworth (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) said she had visited local facilities housing asylum seekers.

“In my experience they were courteous and polite.

“Despite having had some hideous experiences, they were working to try and get an education and make a new life here in the UK.

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“As a compassionate nation we should try and be welcoming to these people. I urge Coun Cook to visit them in person rather than demonise them with his vile implications they pose a security risk to local residents,” she said.

But Coun Cook hit back saying none of the concerns he raised were about refugees currently fleeing Afghanistan which were being brought safely to the UK under Government-approved refugee programmes.

“I have said openly that I fully support this.

“My concerns relate specifically to the use of The Old Golf House Hotel, which in contrast was to house asylum seekers under the asylum dispersal arrangements, not from Afghanistan.

“The use of this hotel has been widely opposed by Kirklees Council, West Yorkshire Police and other Kirklees councillors for Outlane.

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“There are ongoing concerns about fire safety and security at this site. It was also recently broken into by vandals.

“Another nearby hotel that houses asylum seekers was also broken into by far right groups.

“So it is not improper to ask about security,” he said.

Coun Cook added: “People can also see for themselves how the asylum system is being exploited by criminal gangs on the south coast and local residents have genuine concerns about this.

“I have worked with refugees for more than 20 years and so this is just another example of Lib Dems trying to silence residents they disagree with and vilify me for their own political gain.”

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Chair of Calderdale Liberal Democrats, Javed Bashir, said the country had a moral duty not to turn its back on refugees in their hour of need.

“Whether they are interpreters from Afghanistan, pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong or those displaced from their homeland due to climate change, conflict or natural disasters – we need to be supporting and not vilifying them,” he said.

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