The Pontins holiday park near Southport [Credit: Pontins]

Home Office “scraps” plans to house asylum seekers in Southport Pontins

UK: The Home Office is no longer considering housing asylum seekers in a Pontins holiday park in north west England, according to a report by the BBC.

It had previously been suggested that the park close to Southport on Merseyside could accommodate asylum seekers while they had their claims assessed, as a cheaper alternative to using local hotels.

A spokesperson for Sefton council told the BBC that the Pontins holiday park was no longer being considered as part of its plans:  “We have been informed that the Home Office no longer wishes to pursue plans to house asylum seekers at the Pontins site in Ainsdale. We are awaiting written confirmation of this decision.”

Concerns are believed to have been raised about the potential impact on tourism in the area if the asylum seekers were to be housed in the park, while the accessibility of the site itself had also been up for debate.

The government has been seeking cheaper alternatives to hotels as accommodation for asylum seekers, claiming that doing so is costing up to £6.8 million per day. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has been leading the search for alternative sites that would potentially be more conducive for holding larger groups, including former university accommodation, disused military barracks and holiday parks such as Pontins.

Speaking to the BBC, a Home Office 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.”

It comes just a week after the Home Office laid out plans for a contract worth £70 million to house asylum seekers in renovated accommodation centres. It is understood that government officials would like to run a “mini competition” for the contract to design, build or renovate the centres and manage them from around June onwards.

In December, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement regarding plans to house Channel migrants in disused holiday camps and empty university halls of residence provoked a strong backlash from MPs across the political divide.

The original proposals, which it was claimed would save £5.6 million a day compared to paying out on hotel accommodation, were expected to include homing migrants in around half a dozen Pontins holiday parks across England from January.

Sunak said at the time that the government had identified sites that could accommodate up to 10,000 asylum seekers crossing the Channel from France into England.

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