Shrewsbury hotel closes to paying guests as it takes in asylum-seekers

Guests were asked to leave a Shrewsbury hotel in a last-minute scramble to welcome Shropshire’s latest asylum-seekers.

The hotel has now closed its doors to the public to provide accommodation to those seeking asylum in the UK, leaving its paying guests wondering where they were sleeping.

Sarah Ions, from Willenhall, was visiting Shrewsbury with a friend when she was informed by the hotel she would not be able to stay for her scheduled second night.

After staying one night with no issues, staff at the hotel informed the two ladies that it was closing on Monday to make way for asylum-seekers.

“It’s been absolute chaos,” Sarah explained.

“We were told they’d put us up in another hotel, but that hotel is telling us no one has paid for the rooms so we can’t check in and I just don’t know what to do.

“We’ve spent the day walking around the town but we can’t walk any more. We’ve been told we can get a refund but that won’t come for three days and in the meantime what are we supposed to do?

“I feel really sorry for the staff here, there’s loads of people standing at the desk. It’s not their fault but they seem like they’ve just been left to it.”
On Monday night, the hotel said it was working hard to find new accommodation for its paying guests.

In a statement, the hotel said: “We are working with the Government to welcome people who desperately need a roof over their head – often people who have escaped war-torn countries, and are seeking a safe place to stay while they wait for a more permanent home.

“This temporary arrangement will provide much-needed investment into the hotel, which we anticipate will stand us in good stead for the future, as well as providing continued employment for our staff.

“We will continue to function as an accommodation provider, so will be providing food and laundry services to our guests, but will not be taking external bookings during this time.

“We want to reassure residents and businesses that we are working hard to ensure our guests are well supported.

“Specific numbers are not yet confirmed, but we expect to be accommodating in the region of 30 to 60 people for a period of a few months, and we look forward to being able to confirm more details in due course.

“Where guests had already booked, we are also working with Shrewsbury BID to help find alternative venues in Shrewsbury town centre.”

Shropshire Council’s leader said the authority was planning to do everything in its power to offer support to those involved, and hoped the opportunity would allow Shropshire to be able to “play a positive role” in an issue facing the whole of the country.

Council leader Lezley Picton said: “To date, Shropshire, compared with many other parts of the country, has received limited numbers of asylum-seekers. Shropshire has been very welcoming and accommodating to refugees following the recent crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine and I am sure that that will continue.

“As a council, we will be doing what we can in our powers to support the various groups involved. We want to ensure that this is well managed and runs as smoothly as possible, and we are looking at ways that we can encourage those in the hotel to make a positive contribution to life in the county.

“This will see a significant investment into a main town centre hotel, and we are supporting Shrewsbury BID to help ensure that other county businesses can help and take on any bookings that the hotel cannot now host.

“During the pandemic another historic Shrewsbury hotel, the Prince Rupert Hotel, stepped up to meet an emergency situation and support homeless people, showing how such opportunities can be the right thing to do, benefitting people and business.

“I am sure this can become another example, where we can demonstrate how Shropshire plays a positive role, helping with this national issue.”