Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

Plan to house asylum seekers at Pontins camp ‘would deny them dignity’

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Plans to use a Pontins site as an asylum seeker holding camp have been labelled “dehumanising”.

The government is reportedly proposing to buy up and convert “underperforming” holiday camps for the purpose, including Camber Sands in Kent. 

But the Home Office has been slated for the proposals which one critic says show “hostility” towards asylum seekers and refugees.

Alex Kempton, director of operations and campaign for The Refugee Buddy Project, said: “We are very concerned about the potential use of a holiday park in Camber Sands to house people seeking refuge. The plans to place people in this type of accommodation – which are detention centres – is yet more evidence of the hostility of this government toward vulnerable people.

“Placing large numbers of people in unsuitable conditions is completely dehumanising, they lose all control over their lives; have no way of cooking for themselves; have no choice over the simplest things such as the food they eat or the soap they use; and they are often crammed into rooms which are too small and which deny them any dignity.”

There are approximately 820 chalets at the Camber Sands site, Kent Live reports.

The Home Office would not comment on any individual site.

Mr Kempton added: “We advocate for Community Not Camps – placing people seeking refuge in communities where they can be welcomed and can thrive in their new homes.

“We simply don’t accept that this is the way we should be treating people seeking refuge and the incredible community response to the people placed in a hotel in Hastings proves that our community agrees.”

On TripAdvisor, Pontins’ Camber Sands Centre has a two out of five rating. One person said: “What an awfully sad place this is now. The apartments are disgustingly dirty, curtains half hanging off, kitchen area was mouldy, refrigerator leaked, bathroom had other people’s waste around it.

“Outside the apartments are fag butts galore. Broken windows. The senior management of the Britannia Hotels group obviously do not care, are they running it into the ground to close it down? It would appear that way. Perhaps if you charged more and improved the apartments they wouldn’t get as trashed as they are. Lack of cleanliness is unforgivable – shame on you for your lack of respect.”

A government spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels due to the unacceptable rise in small boat arrivals and our commitment to accommodate those from Afghanistan.

“We therefore continue to look at all available options to source appropriate and cost-effective temporary accommodation.”

There were 72,027 asylum applications, relating to 85,902 people in the UK in the year ending September 2022. According to Home Office data, there were 26,380 asylum seekers living in temporary accommodation at the end of 2021.

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