Migrants missing in our city after Home Office abandoned them, council leader says

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

‘I checked back with colleagues at City Hall – they hadn’t been told. So, we don’t know who they are and we don’t know where they’ve gone’

Migrants missing in our city after Home Office abandoned them, council leader says
Suella Braverman (circled) walks by migrants penned in at the Manston migration centre
Suella Braverman (circled) walks by migrants penned in at the Manston migration centre CREDIT: Pixel GRG

Migrants were abandoned in a new city after the Home Office left them without telling the local authorities they were coming or where they were, a council leader has said.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Norwich Council, said the Home Office did not give its local officials any warning that migrants from Manston were being bussed into the city on Thursday. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Evans said he first read about the group coming to Norwich in a news article.

“We hadn’t been told. I checked back with colleagues at City Hall – they hadn’t been told. So, we don’t know who they are and we don’t know where they’ve gone to in the city,” he said.

“I think that’s part of the problem here. As a sector, councils are asking for earlier engagement from the Home Office and for us to be consulted.”

He added that “of course” councils need to know where migrants are in terms of safety and safeguarding, and often the Home Office usually gives local leaders just a few days’ notice when it comes to opening a hotel for migrants in their area.

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“If the Government engaged councils earlier in the process, we could be on the front foot and it would be a better system for sure,” he said.

His comments came after a group of migrants were bussed out of Manston in Kent and abandoned in Westminster, as council leaders blamed a “breakdown in communication” within the Home Office. 

Westminster City Council Labour leader Adam Hug said a large number of people came into Westminster on Wednesday from Manston with wristbands and Home Office paperwork, but who “were not being dealt with properly”.

“We believe those people slept rough overnight and ultimately the chaos in Manston and the pressures to get that situation sorted is having a ripple effect with people being left to sleep rough on our streets in London,” Mr Hug added.

The Home Secretary has come under mounting political pressure over the illegal conditions at the Manston, where at one point as many as 4,000 people were being detained for weeks in a site meant to hold 1,600 for a matter of days.

Suella Braverman, who was reinstated to her ministerial post just over a week ago, visited the scandal-hit migrant processing centre in Kent on Thursday to hear updates from the staff.

Mr Hug said the “chaos” of the situation means local services and charities are “having to pick up the slack”.

Asked what may have caused the breakdown in communication after the Home Office claimed the migrants told officials they had accommodation, he explained: “Could be language, could be just the sheer push of people.

“To be fair to the Home Office, it could be people who are just desperately wanting to get out of a horrible situation that is on the ground in Manston.”

“But, ultimately, you have got a group of people who were dumped on the street in Westminster on Wednesday and had to sleep rough overnight and then were being picked up by our homeless services,” he added.

Damien Green, MP for Ashford and former immigration minister, also told the Today programme that children in Kent are being squeezed out of school places amid the influx of migrants and their kids in the county.

He said: “Kent itself is really under strain because it’s not just all the points of accommodation, it’s the fact that you need to find school places for these children and there are children in Kent being told there are no school places in their own town.

“This is completely unacceptable, we’ve got to spread the burden around the country and we’ve got to make the whole system faster and more efficient.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has taken urgent decisions to alleviate issues at Manston using all the legal powers available and sourcing alternative accommodation.

“The welfare of those in our care is of the utmost importance and asylum seekers are only released from Manston when they have assured us that they have accommodation to go to – to suggest otherwise is wrong and misleading.”

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