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Newly formed group offers support to asylum seekers at Wisbech hotel

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Asylum seekers being put up at a Wisbech hotel have been told “people care and want to befriend you”.

The assurance has been given by a local group that includes Wisbech Interfaith, Quakers, Anglicans, the local trades council and concerned members of the public.

Sean Finlay is chair of Wisbech Interfaith Forum and visited the Rose and Crown hotel to try and find out what help could be provided.

“These people came over in small boats, from maybe Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq,” he said.

Rose and Crown Hotel, Wisbech

“It has been extremely difficult to gain information on the plans for the residents and the building.

“A small number of us have sought to learn if the young men have needs that are not currently being met.

“At present they are fed, housed, and given £8 per week for other needs. They can go out in the community.

“Locals cannot visit them or take them out.

“However, if we meet them in the street we can interact!”

Sean said they had been able to establish that the young men staying in the hotel were in urgent need of winter clothing, footwear socks, underwear etc.

“It’s important to make it clear that with the relatively small numbers involved a large-scale clothing operation is not called for,” he said.

“Our efforts have been addressed to letting them know that people care and want to befriend them.

“It appears that recreational opportunities are very limited.

“So, I am seeking to see if we can find such things as a basketball ring, ball, a table tennis table and a football.”

Sean added: “During our visit to the hotel last Saturday I was agreeably surprised at the sympathy extended to our guests by members of the passing public.

“I detected some reservation on the part of some onlookers but no open hostility.”

He said that Wisbech, like a number of towns, has been selected to host asylum seekers as they await a chance to present their case to be recognised as refugees and begin the road towards a permanent home in the UK.

“The Rose and Crown is an iconic historic coaching inn in the centre of town and was recently bought by an Egyptian-owned hotel chain,” he said.

“All intoxicating drinks were cleared from the shelves and very recently it has become a home for 20 mainly young men and their minders.”

Two Conservative Wisbech councillors spoke about asylum seekers this week during a debate at Cambridgeshire County Council.

Cllr Steve Tierney said: “I come from a town which is by some accounts 40 per cent of people who were not born in this country.

Cllr Steve Tierney

“They are friends and colleagues, and we all get along pretty well despite the odd hiccup if you like.

“We all work together to try and deliver a better town for everyone.

“And I can tell you that you cannot group people together in the way that some people want to do.

“You cannot say all people who have integrated, emigrated here are the same because they all hold such different views.

“And I can assure you I encounter a great many who are just as sceptical about the idea of uncontrolled immigration here by people who are coming illegally as people who are born here are.

“You cannot pretend that this is one side and another they are not the same thing.

“There are three types of people who are coming to this country I would say.

“There are those that have come here to become part of the country to live here. They have come legally through legal channels; they are doing their best to integrate.

“They’ve got jobs they are working they are part of the community.

“The majority of people are just like that; great, love them they are working well.

“There’s a second group of people who are coming because they are fleeing from countries where it is horrible where they have faced things that we cannot even imagine, and they are coming here to escape that and again of course we should support those people.

“But there are a third group that seems to be conflated with the other two that are not the same.

“These are people who are coming here illegally, and they are coming here for economic reasons often through multiple countries where they could perfectly possibly stop and then coming illegally into our country.

“Now unless you think that there are unlimited infinite resources there must be a limit to that.

“Denying it is just lying.

“It is simply lying that we do not have infinite numbers of houses there is not infinite money to pay for benefits and to pay for people to have things that they need when they come.

“There must be a limit

“Ordinary people who recognize this get called names. They get called racist because they recognize they are limited resources.

“But here is the truth. When you support unlimited immigration with this ‘love everyone approach’ that sounds so nice what you are actually doing is taking from people who need it.

“I work on a Saturday night with a group who feed the homeless, feed people who are having a hard time meeting their bills and getting food.

“And to a man and to a lady they arrive, and they say, they often say, we are very frustrated because we cannot get what we need, and we have to do this.

“And over there in our local hotel there are people being put up in the lap of luxury being given everything thrown at them and they are not wrong.

“It is not fair it is not reasonable

“And people in this country have had enough of it.

“The idea that the Conservatives are tough on immigration, are you joking? What Conservative are you talking about.

“That’s not true at all if only they would do half the things, they said they would do

“It is absolutely possible to be compassionate and caring for people who need it but to stand firm against people who are just coming because it is an easier life for them.

“Now I would probably do the same in their place but that does not mean we should accept it and it does not mean we should treat the two things as though they are the same because they are not the same.”

Cllr Sam Hoy also spoke in the debate and told colleagues “I absolutely love the diverse community” of Wisbech.

She said: “Next year we have had we have candidates that were born in Pakistan in Poland – as a Conservative party locally we actually do really support and understand the benefits of people from all backgrounds.

“Without trying to be really twee and have kind of like a personal journey story I think one thing I have learned that if you sort of say to people, I know better than you, you know I love everybody I support everyone whilst that is also true, and we do need to support everyone.

“But that extremism and toxicity that everyone is talking about they are so worried about that does actually come up and that does rise because if you say to people, we are going to open the doors and we are going to let people come in and as many peoples as possible come in these people with these with these views will get quite nervous.

“They will get quite scared, and they will say some quite unpleasant comments.

“And if we just say you are stupid idiots, we do not agree with anything you say you’re a racist bigot they aren’t going to suddenly stop being a racist bigot overnight.

“They are not going to be like oh well then, the county council tell me I am a racist bigot so that is me not being one anymore they will carry on and they will get worse and there will be more people doing it.

“And saying it so we actually need to address this issue and talk about it in an adult way otherwise we are just absolutely sleep walking into problems for the future.”

Cllr Hoy added: “The system is totally broken nationally.

“We have people from Lithuania right now they’ve got no recourse to public funds that are sleeping on the streets and people that came across the channel in 4-star hotels and I’m sorry that’s just fundamentally wrong.”

The council was debating – and did finally agree – a motion paving the way for a migrant champion for Cambridgeshire.

Although Cllr Hoy voted against the motion, she said there were a number of things in the motion she agreed with such as calling on the government to give local authorities support.

“It’s not fair to send a number of people here that do have complex needs and provide no funding for them,” she said.

“However, I object to the idea of a migrant champion.

“I find it really offensive to lump everyone into a group – it is actually quite offensive to say, ‘oh you’re not English therefore you must want a migrant champion’.

“How is that the same as how everyone is the same whether or not you come from Latvia you have lived here six years you have worked you have bought a house are you the same as someone that is fleeing a terrible war in Syria.

“Another thing that is not right is the point in the motion about the fast process not allowing for asylum seekers to work.

“I understand the logic if asylum seekers can work obviously, it is not a burden on the system and the state.

“However, if you increase the labour supply, we all know you decrease wages and then obviously again local people are going to be very angry about that.”

She also said she found it frustrating that people are “not practicing what they preach.

“Under the asylum dispersal scheme, we are told that Cambridge will be taking some 500 asylum seekers which will be allocated based on population size.

“Obviously, this means South Cambs, and Cambridge City would take the lion’s share being larger areas however they are commonly making excuses as to why they cannot take them and trying to voice them off in larger numbers to other districts.

“So, I believe in practicing what you preach.

“If you are pro asylum seeker, please do welcome them into a district please go and speak to your representatives on Cambridge City and South Cambs.

“People speak at council and at a national level about how they have all these feelings and how they understand stuff and then they don’t put it into practice when it comes to putting into practice”.

 

 

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