13 March 2023
Asylum and Immigration

It is often suggested in social media that Britain is or has become hostile to migrants; that it has turned its back on the EU; that no safe and legal routes exist for migrants, or that this country is opposed to accepting asylum seekers.

Here are some relevant facts. Overall, in the year to June 2022 long-term immigration into the UK was estimated at around 1.1 million people, The immigration of EU nationals remained broadly stable at 224,000 people, or 21%.

In January 2021-September 2022,144,576 visas were granted to people from Hong Kong with British National (Overseas) status. Since March 2022 186,893 visas have been issued under the two Ukraine Schemes.

As at 24 November 2022, 12,300 people had been granted indefinite leave to remain under the two schemes for Afghan nationals. In the year to September 2022, the UK accepted 23,835 migrants under the headings of refugee resettlement, family reunion or asylum permission to stay.

Locally, Herefordshire has received some 180 refugees from Syria and Afghanistan in recent years, and 750 people under the Ukraine schemes; a further 150 Ukrainians are awaiting sponsorship.

These facts undermine the simple certainties of the social media view I started with. They point to a country that is open and international in spirit, but wrestling with the need to balance these commitments with the extra demands they place on public services.

The same is true in relation to the Three Counties Hotel. Over the past few weeks I have organised two meetings with Home Office officials, had detailed discussions with the Immigration Minister, and have written in strong terms both to the Minister and to the Home Secretary.

The Home Office has decided to press ahead at great speed, without doing any detailed analysis of its own and despite the clear and convincing evidence presented as to the likely impact on already stretched local services.

Herefordshire Council is still under assessment by the independent Commissioner in relation to Children's Services. The Hospital ranked second in the UK among NHS trusts with the most patients waiting over the four hour target in December 2022 and January 2023. 

Local access to GP services, and especially to NHS dental care, has been limited since the pandemic. The site is located close to an area of highest 10% UK multiple deprivation.

The big issues are undoubtedly complex. But it seems clear that Home Office officials made the wrong decision here.