A missed opportunity.

We were very disheartened recently when 40 Asylum Seekers were moved into overflow Asylum Support accommodation to a hotel near to Colchester and then were moved swiftly on and out of the area just 6 days later, after irrational online behaviour by some local people and an inflaming video released by Nigel Farage.

What upsets us most is that as a group and a community we weren’t given the knowledge of their arrival so the opportunity to warmly welcome these people was not there . There are so many things we could’ve put in place to assist them, and this is turn could have put more of a positive spin on the situation locally, and had we been given this opportunity who knows, it could’ve changed the narrative which was shrouded with negativity because a small, but vocal, part of the local community and created a situation that really was very unnecessary.

The group of 40, mostly families, arrived on August 11th and it wasn’t until the 17th that we became aware they were here and actually made a visit to the hotel to introduce ourselves and assess how we could be of assistance. By then it was too late, they had all just been bussed off to some unknown place, just when their surroundings were starting to become familiar and they had started to create bonds with the hotel team.

What was nice was that Essex Live published a very balanced article explaining how sad the Hotel owner and staff were when the Asylum Seekers were so hastily moved out of our area, not only because it then left the hotel completely empty when it was already financially suffering from the effects of the pandemic, but the Hotel owner also said both the Asylum Seekers and employees were left ‘in tears’, as they were sent onto the coaches to be removed from the site, because in the week they were at the hotel, the staff and guests interacted positively, and bonds had started to form. He was quoted as saying that he himself and the staff treated their guests with respect and as human beings. One of his members of staff said they were really the nicest people. The owner went on to say that the Asylum Seekers had arrived ‘distressed’ and ‘hungry’. Over the coming days he heard horrific stories of their time in their home countries where they are fleeing.

It seems outrageous that they were moved on simply because some local people kicked up a bit of a fuss on some online groups.

The local authority have now confirmed to us that it’s almost certain that Asylum Seekers will not be placed anywhere in our region in the future in emergency overflow accommodation such as this, due to the negative response last month.   

We are extremely disappointed by this response and feel our local constituencies should be doing far more to publicly welcome Asylum Seekers. We know what a valuable contribution they will be to our communities and more importantly so many of us would dearly love the opportunity to show compassion and kindness to newly arrived people when they need it most. What better lesson could this be to our next generations?

This ‘them and us’ mentality really must go… We are all one race…the human race!