A COUNCILLOR has called on Bromsgrove residents to show ‘solidarity’ with asylum seekers in the face of fears that the newcomers to the district are not adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Complaints have been made to West Mercia Police of groups congregating near to Bromsgrove Hotel and Spa, where the asylum seekers are based.

But Labour councillor Harrison Rone-Clarke has appealed to locals to make the newcomers welcome.

He said: “I think it’s incredibly important that we express our solidarity with asylum seekers currently being accommodated in Bromsgrove.

“Now more than ever, as our country comes together to battle coronavirus, it’s massively important that we invoke the very British sense of solidarity that we’ve seen displayed in other times of crisis such as the Second World War.

“It’s that sense of duty to help others, regardless of where they’re from, that defines us.”

Police, meanwhile, have insisted social distancing infractions by asylum seekers in Bromsgrove will be dealt with just as seriously as any other reports.

The Advertiser reported last week that Serco, the organisation responsible for housing more than 100 asylum seekers in Bromsgrove, said the newcomers were aware of coronavirus guidelines.

However, a number of residents living near to the Bromsgrove Hotel and Spa, in Marlbrook, where the asylum seekers are being housed, claim the new arrivals are not adhering to the rules.

A female resident, who reported her account to the police, said hotel residents had been flouting guidelines, ‘spitting in the street’ and ‘urinating up the fences of gardens’.

She added: “Residents in the vicinity have seen large numbers of these refugees walking around in large groups with total disregard to social distancing.

“Their children have been playing in the playground in the park in Braces Lane having removed the safety tape on the gates, adults drinking alcohol in the park.

“Residents had no letters to say that Serco were going to be using the hotel as a base for them. This is totally unacceptable to residents who feel intimidated when walking their dogs or daily exercise.”

In response, Chief Inspector Edward Hancox, of West Mercia Police, said: “We are continuing to work with local partners, Serco (who manage the welfare and accommodation) and the Home Office to ensure that the impact on our local community is managed sensitively.

“My officers will continue to provide the required and visible reassurance and support in the area.

“We will of course deal with any issues in the community as we would normally do, which includes investigating any alleged breaches of Covid-19 regulations.”

Britannia Hotels, which owns the building where the asylum seekers are housed, and Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid have both failed to respond to requests from the Advertiser to comment on the issue.

However, former Home Secretary and Chancellor Mr Javid has replied to constituents who have written to him on the matter and the Advertiser has seen copies of such correspondence.

One resident took issue with a statement from Serco in our story last week, in which the company said it had been ‘working extensively with the local community through the local authority officials’.

“That is not true,” the resident retorted, “as nobody in the community or local councillors were made aware that the hotel was to change from being a hotel to a place to house asylum seekers.”

In his response to the resident, Mr Javid echoed sentiments from Serco and the Home Office that ‘the overall reaction from the community has been understanding and supportive’.

“Given the huge challenge of Covid-19, many people understand why this has required a temporary change in how asylum claims are dealt with nationally,” he wrote.

“The people that have been settled into the hotel are lawfully entitled to ask for asylum and these people are currently in the legal and immigration system which is in the process of determining their request.

“The UK asylum system treats them accordingly and does not require there to be security measures around them,” Mr Javid added, appearing to reference an online video showing the hotel unstaffed.

“If any of them commit a crime, the authorities will take appropriate action but this is rare (not least because if they are found to have committed a crime this will prejudice their asylum claim.”

Mr Javid added that the hotel was one a number of ‘Covid contingency sites to accommodate new asylum seekers’ across the country being used during the lockdown deferral of asylum applications.