Guests at a Crawley hotel have spoken of their shock at discovering asylum seekers being accommodated among holidaymakers there.
The three-star Europa Hotel at Maidenbower has a gym, health spa, pool and 211 bedrooms - but many are booked by housing group Clearsprings Ready Homes on behalf of the Home Office.
The travel website TripAdvisor lists scathing comments from holidaymakers staying at the Europa. One hotel guest said: “Arrived at reception to be met by what can only be described as refugees. They were all over the lobby.”
Another wrote: “Stayed at the Europa refugee camp before flying out to Bali the following day ....Although I do sympathise with the plight of these desperate people I did not particularly wish to start my holiday in a refugee camp.”
In another posting, a Europa guest said: “Paying customers had nowhere to sit to have a meal or a drink due to a large amount of non-paying refugees taking up most of the bar’s seating areas.”
In a reply on the TripAdvisor site, Europa’s guest relations manager said: “We have many groups staying with us and, like private guests, all have paid. Our bookings are made through our call centre and we are unaware of who guests/groups are until they have arrived at the hotel.”
Meanwhile, Crawley MP Henry Smith hit out this week at the use of Crawley hotels to house asylum seekers as ‘totally inappropriate.’
He met with Home Secretary Theresa May at the end of last year and was assured then that the Europa Hotel would no longer be used for that purpose.
Now, he says, he will look further into what is going on.
He first took action following complaints from local residents.“I was concerned when I received comments from constituents.
“One couple were having their wedding reception at the hotel and it was gatecrashed by asylum seekers staying there,” he said.
“The Europa is right next to Maidenbower - a residential area - and there were concerns about people wandering around peering through windows.”
He said he was told that the Home Office had instructed the housing group Clearsprings not to use the Europa in future “but I was told there were capacity issues.”
Saying he would investigate further, he added: “I don’t think it is appropriate; it is primarily an airport hotel and it is right opposite a residential area.”
Crawley hotels, generally, he said were ‘better used for people travelling.’
Previously large concentrations of asylum seekers were accommodated in hotels around ports and airports.
Another hotel - the Russ Hill at Charlwood - which has recently re-opened after refurbishment, is also used by Clearsprings to accommodate asylum seekers on behalf of the Home Office.
It describes itself as a ‘Surrey country retreat’ and as a ‘19th century manor set in nine acres of parkland.’
On TripAdvisor, one guest said: “First impressions was why is there so many immigrants about. We soon realised they were being moved by the coachload.”
Another stated: “On arrival about 100 refugees in the lobby, lounge and communal areas were young males. They were also lurking around corridors.”
Both hotels are owned by the Britannia hotel group who referred queries to the individual hotels - both of which declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Clearsprings Ready Homes referred queries about the hotels’ use to the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we are committed to providing safe and secure accommodation while cases are considered.
“We have made clear to our providers that the use of hotels is only ever acceptable as a short-term contingency measure.
“The cost of using hotel accommodation to board asylum-seekers is borne by individual contractors who make such decisions, including which premises are used.
“All applications for asylum are considered on their individual merits. Where people establish a genuine need for protection, or a well founded fear of persecution, refuge will be granted.
“If someone is found not to need our protection, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure.”