Home Office to be probed over decision to house 107 asylum seekers in historic 4-star Milton Keynes hotel

The move was made with consulting residents or local councillors

By Sally Murrer
Thursday, 13th January 2022, 1:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 3:03 pm

A list of "pressing questions" has been drawn up to ask the Home Secretary about the government's decision to place 107 asylum seekers in one of MK's most historic hotels.

Last month, the Home Office chose the former 4-star Woughton House Hotel in Woughton-on-the-Green as an official holding centre for asylum seekers.

Local councillors have stepped up to help, but also have some questions for the Home Office.

The former Woughton House Hotel in Milton Keynes

Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Trendall will be bringing a motion to the council this next week, asking the leader and chief executive to put the pressing questions to the Home Secretary.

Cllr Trendall represents Campbell Park and Old Woughton, the ward where the former hotel is located.

He said: “Asylum seekers are welcome in Milton Keynes, and they deserve safe accommodation that is arranged in an open and honest way – the Home Office has not done this.”

“Instead, the former Woughton House Hotel was chosen to house asylum seekers without consultation with the Council or local residents.”

The accommodation is to be managed by the Home Office and its contractors Clearsprings, based in Essex.

Cllr Trendall said: “We do not know why this location was selected, or why volunteers are being asked to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements by the Home Office’s contractor, Clearsprings. There are so many unanswered questions, and this motion is trying to get them resolved.”

He added: “The council, asylum seekers and local residents all deserve answers, and the Home Secretary needs to provide them.”

The hotel, which was a popular wedding venue, went into liquidation in October last year,.

It will initially accommodate 47, mostly single, men, but the aim is to use is as provide temporary accommodation for up to 107 people before they are moved on.

Residents have raised concerns, describing the announcement as "terrible news". They are concerned about security issues and the site's suitability

One said: "Without any warning whatsoever we risk having hundreds of these young men loitering around – making the area insecure... t's a completely inappropriate location. The site cannot even be secured properly. Local residents are very unhappy."

However, Last year the people of Milton Keynes welcomed with open arms hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan seeking sanctuary in the UK.

Almost 600 men, women and children were evacuated from Afghanistan and placed by the Home Office in three MK hotels as their temporary homes.

Cllr Trendall helped organise a huge campaign to ensure the families were given a huge welcome and provided with clothes, toiletries and everything they needed.

Many of the refugees have now been permanently re-homed in other areas of the UK. Around 200 of them remain in MK and are still in hotel accommodation. These are larger families, with six or more children, and they are waiting for the government to find them larger housing.

The people from Afghanistan were officially recognised as refugees because they were fleeing armed conflict or persecution. An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claim hasn't been evaluated. They are held at holding centres, officially called Immigration Removal Centre, while they await an official decision about their right to stay in the UK.