Eastbourne council says seafront hotels are ‘totally unsuitable’ for asylum seekers

Six hotels in Eastbourne are being used to house asylum seekers and the council believes this is ‘totally unsuitable’.
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In November Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) wrote to the Home Office about the continued placement of asylum seekers in the town. An EBC spokesperson said: “There are now six hotels in Eastbourne providing accommodation for asylum seekers, including large numbers of extremely vulnerable young people.

“Despite continued warnings about the suitability and location of the hotels that are being commandeered and concerns about the critical lack of safeguarding being exercised, the Home Office has not given us any indication of a change in their policy.

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“It is also putting people at risk of exploitation and trafficking. Even without these placements, local public services are already under great strain.”

Eastbourne council pushes back on hotels being used for asylum seekers (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)Eastbourne council pushes back on hotels being used for asylum seekers (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Eastbourne council pushes back on hotels being used for asylum seekers (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

MP Caroline Ansell raised these concerns with the immigration minister Robert Jenrick. She said: “The government needs to improve the processing situation and I support changes in legislation, including amendment to the Modern Slavery Act, as it is clearly being exploited and too open to abuse. Housing asylum seekers and economic migrants in hotels is no strategy and it is putting public services in our town under pressure.”

In December 2022 a High Court judge kept an injunction in place preventing Great Yarmouth seafront hotels from being used to house asylum seekers. Great Yarmouth Borough Council obtained a temporary injunction to stop hotels being used for migrants. It argued under planning legislation, a hostel is a different type of use from a hotel so using hotels for migrants would require planning permission. Mr Justice Holgate agreed the injunction should remain in place.

When this case was flagged to Eastbourne Borough Council, a spokesperson said: “We have served planning contravention notices on the six hotels being used by the Home Office. We are also monitoring closely the legal proceedings that are underway in Great Yarmouth.”

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A planning contravention notice enables the local authority to require detailed information about suspected breaches of planning control – the hotels need to disclose if they’re being used as a hostel by hosting migrants, rather than a hotel.

The EBC spokesperson said: “In addition to multi-agency partnership meetings, senior officers are also meeting regularly with the Home Office and Eastbourne MP, Caroline Ansell. The Home Office is under no illusion that in the council’s view these seafront hotels are totally unsuitable for the purposes for which are they currently being used. It is essential that their primary function within the local tourism and hospitality sector is re-established as soon as possible.”

MP Caroline Ansell said: “I spoke again with the minister and separately with the Home Office team last week to hear the latest update. There have been no new placements made in our town since November. It has been made clear to the Home Office that tourist hotspots like Eastbourne must not be used once alternative provision is made for those seeking asylum.

"It is also important that Eastbourne Borough Council uses the full range of its powers to ensure prominent seafront hotels are used only for their proper purpose. I am keeping a very close eye on developments and talk frequently with all those involved, including meetings and conversations with hoteliers. I will meet again in February with the Home Office and I expect further progress on housing asylum seekers away from Eastbourne to have been made.”