A Renfrewshire MP has slammed the Home Office for “appalling communications” over their use of the Erskine Bridge Hotel to house asylum seekers.
It was announced earlier this month that operations at the hotel would wind down, with the final closure date currently scheduled for the beginning of April.
The venue was being let by Mears Group, who hold the contract from the Home Office for asylum accommodation across Scotland.
Gavin Newlands MP, who represents Erskine, raised the issue at last week’s Business Questions in the House of Commons, but says he was bitterly disappointed with the response.
Hotels across the country have been hired by the UK Government to house asylum seekers waiting for decisions on their applications for refugee status as they seek to live in a safe country.
Average times for tribunal hearings to be held into asylum applications reached 82 weeks last year, while the number of cases awaiting a decision was at its highest level since records began.
Critics have pointed to the steady increase in the backlog over the last decade, with cuts to public spending and the number of civil servants needed to process applications widely blamed for the shambles.
Erskine has seen far-right protestors from outside Renfrewshire congregate at the hotel seeking to inflame the situation, with police in attendance in the grounds to ensure the safety of residents and locals.
Gavin Newlands, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, which includes the hotel, said the Home Office’s actions over the past year should have them “hanging their heads in shame”.
He told Renfrewshire News: “The housing of asylum seekers is a direct result of the UK Government’s appalling failings in running the system and processing applications efficiently and speedily.
“I raised the appalling Home Office communications about the Erskine Bridge Hotel directly with the Leader of the House of the Commons last week and, as has been the case throughout this episode, the response was derisory at best.
“The people of Erskine deserved a lot better than how they were treated by the UK Government and its ministers, but sadly we are all too aware of how shabbily they think of our community.
“Such a major project should be open to scrutiny and democratically elected members should be told upfront about what’s happening – as well as the wider public.”
Mr Newlands added: “That wasn’t the case with the Erskine Bridge Hotel from the start, throughout the use of the hotel, and right at the end.
“That gap in communications has allowed the far-right from elsewhere to insert its grubby fingers into a local issue and stir up community tensions.
“As the hotel winds down, I hope the Home Office and its political masters learn lessons from their actions – or lack of them – and engage properly with community and elected members in future, with openness and accountability absolutely key.
“I also want to pay tribute to the people of Erskine and the wider community, who have shown dignity, grace, and restraint in the face of severe provocation by the far right and extremists who have travelled to our area with the express intent of causing trouble. I am thankful they did not succeed.”
Headline image: Gavin Newlands MP