Migrants housed in Coventry without consulting MPs, council or public

A local MP has criticised the Home Office for not consulting Coventry on the rehousing of asylum seekers in the city at the height of the pandemic.

The Chair of a Parliamentary committee on Thursday criticised the Home Office for failing to notify local MPs or Coventry City Council about the housing of asylum seekers in Coventry in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meg Hillier MP shared the concerns of local Labour MP for Coventry North West, Taiwo Owatemi, who was not made aware of the arrangements to rehouse a significant number of asylum seekers from Birmingham to a Coventry hotel.

Still at the height of the pandemic with resources already stretched, the rehousing presented a significant risk to public health as no additional provisions were available to support the asylum seekers.

It is also believed a number of the asylum seekers tested positive for COVID-19.

The move to not inform local authorities lead to Coventry City Council using its planning powers to block the arrival of asylum seekers in the city.

At the time, the Council called out the “disproportionate” use of Coventry to house asylum seekers, as two hotels in the city were already providing temporary accommodation.

Ms Hillier confronted Home Office representatives, describing how Ms Owatemi “found out on Twitter, as had everyone else in the area.”

The Public Accounts Committee Chair went on to emphasise, “You’re talking the talk, but colleague after colleague and their local authorities have not been informed about changes. You do need to hear that very firmly.”

Taiwo Owatemi MP said: “This incident is yet another in a series of failures in communication and competence from the Government to fulfil the most basic of duties.”

The Labour MP has been working with local organisations and making representations on behalf of existing asylum seekers in hotels across the city to ensure they and local services receive the help they need.

She added: “Coventry is proud to be an official City of Refuge. But we cannot offer refuge safely and effectively if we are being boxed out of conversations, under-resourced and under-supported by central government.”

Ms Owatemi has previously criticised Matt Hancock for failing to provide adequate testing access for Coventrians after a local child was sent to Scotland to receive a test.