Hundreds of refugees sent to Waltham Forest hotel without notice, says council leader

She claimed refugees are “often provided with inadequate food”, leaving the council and volunteers scrambling to “fill the gaps”
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Stock image (credit: Pixabay)
Stock image (credit: Pixabay)

Around 400 refugees were recently placed in a local hotel by the Government with “no prior notice” and often “inadequate food”, says council leader Grace Williams.

Last Thursday, the Labour leader criticised the Home Office for leaving Waltham Forest Council and local charities scrambling to provide “intensive support” for refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan.

She said the situation is being made worse by “lack of coordination and help” from the government department, whose level of support “does not meet these families’ needs”.

Figures obtained via Freedom of Information request show the Home Office temporarily housed more than 300 asylum seekers in the borough in 2019 and 2020, a figure which rose to 566 in 2021.

In an email newsletter sent to residents, Cllr Williams wrote that the Home Office provided “no practical help with clothing, toys or other basics” for the 400 refugees and no plan for finding “more suitable accommodation” while their asylum claim is processed.

She added: “They are often provided with inadequate food and it’s left to local authorities and volunteers to fill the gaps.

“People arriving here need school places, help registering with GPs and, crucially for many, trauma support.

“We are now lobbying the Home Office for a plan and the funding we need to fully support those coming here to escape conflict.”

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In the coming weeks Waltham Forest Council plans to launch an appeal to residents for help with supplying essential items for refugee children.

When contacted for comment, the Home Office would not respond to Cllr Williams’ criticism about poor communication and planning.

A spokesperson for the department said it is dealing with an “unprecedented increase” in asylum cases but continues to ensure that accommodation provided is “safe, secure and leaves no one destitute”. 

They added: “Asylum seekers receive three varied meals a day, designed to cater for cultural difference and meet NHS Eatwell Standards.”

Asylum seekers receiving full-board accommodation are reportedly given “all other essentials” and a £8.24 weekly payment to cover clothing, non-prescription medicine and travel.

London Councils, an association representing the capital’s local authorities, has warned there is already a “chronic shortage of affordable housing” in the city.

Executive member for communities Claire Holland said: “We know too many Afghan evacuees are still living in hotels. It’s an unsustainable situation, especially for the many families with children we’re supporting.

“Boroughs are very concerned by the lack of alternative housing options for these families – a particular challenge in the capital due to the chronic shortage of affordable housing here.

“London is already dealing with the most severe housing pressures and highest homelessness rates in the country.”

Neighbouring Redbridge has received more than a thousand asylum seekers every year for the last three years, leading their council leader Jas Athwal to complain about the government “dumping” people in the borough earlier this year.

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