THE UK Government has requisitioned a large Greenock hotel to accommodate asylum seekers while their claims are being processed.

The contingency arrangement to cope with an increased number of asylum applications came to light when people who tried to book rooms at the Holiday Inn Express reported that they were told none were available as it had been booked out for the next 18 months.

Others said they'd had their bookings cancelled according to our sister title The Greenock Telegraph. 

The UK Government has been liaising with Inverclyde Council over the hotel takeover and official council papers state that rooms are being used to accommodate men seeking asylum 'from late May'.

The Home Office has stayed silent on the hotel arrangements, but local MP Ronnie Cowan has today stressed the need for the local community not to be left in the dark over the area's involvement in the programme.

Mr Cowan said: "This is a UK Government plan and I believe the UK Government is in discussion with Inverclyde Council.

"Housing those seeking asylum in the UK in hotels is not an ideal situation.

"Inverclyde showed just how welcoming it is when we responded to the emergency in the Ukraine.

"Like Inverclyde, Scotland is progressive and welcoming."

The MP added: "I will be seeking assurances from the Home Office that this plan has been thought through and that it will be properly implemented and managed.

"While Inverclyde is happy to accommodate refugees and has a proud tradition of doing so, we need to keep the community informed with accurate timely information so as not to feed a rumour mill that churns out negativity, and could undermine the initial aim of providing safe sanctuary."

A council report says all of the men's meals, laundry and welfare support will be provided by the UK Government's private contractor Mears and the Migrant Help organisation.

It adds that Inverclyde Health & Social Care Partnership staff have been identified to carry out health assessments and says GP registration and mental health support arrangements for the men are also being put together.

Third sector group YourVoice is deploying two of its community connector staff to support the men to access a range of activities locally, with online English lessons, laptop computers, gym access and other supports being put in place.

The HSCP will incur costs as the additional nursing staff and third sector community connectors helping the asylum seekers staying at the hotel have to be funded, but the UK Government is not making any money available to the council.

It has meanwhile been confirmed that the district will also be included in the first phase of a wider UK Government asylum dispersal scheme launching in Scotland, which is separate to the hotel contingency accommodation arrangement.

Until now only Glasgow has been involved in that wider scheme.

Inverclyde Council has briefed elected members on the asylum support scheme.

The local authority report, published online, confirms the UK Government has moved to 'utilise' a hotel within Inverclyde under its contingency dispersal and says this is due to a number of factors 'including Covid and increasing numbers seeking asylum'.

The report states that the hotel in Greenock has been commissioned by Mears, as the UK Government’s provider, from May 23 to provide asylum accommodation and adds that 'extensive work is now under way through the health and social care partnership and wider partners, including the third sector, to ensure appropriate support is in place'.

Hotel chain InterContinental, who run the Holiday Inn Express, said they were unable to comment as all bookings are confidential and their spokesperson directed enquiries to the government.

Home Office bosses said they wouldn't comment on individual hotels.

A spokesperson said: “We are dealing with an unprecedented increase in asylum cases but despite this we continue to ensure that the accommodation provided is safe, secure and leaves no one destitute.

“The Home Office does not comment on operational arrangements for individual hotels.”