‘Intimidation’ fuelled by anonymous letters scuppers plan to house asylum seeker family

A plan to move a family of asylum seekers into a vacant Kearsley property has been scrapped after “as a result of intimidation” in the nearby community.

Hundreds of people packed into Trinity Church in Farnworth for a fiery Kearsley Area Forum meeting on Wednesday, 10 February 2016.

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The issue of what the property at 526 Manchester Road would be used for dominated the agenda.

Many had turned up after receiving an anonymous letter which urged them to fight the plans. The letter claimed the plans could affect the security of families in the area.

Serco — the company responsible for housing asylum seekers in the region — confirmed it was planning to use the property to place a family fleeing war or persecution in their own country during a period when their application to live in the UK was being processed.

The property is owned by Mr Patel and family — who own and run the nearby Kearsley Service Station — and an agreement had been put in place for Serco to manage it. It has been confirmed the plan to house the family in the property has been cancelled — but there is a debate as to who pulled the plug.

A spokesman for Serco said that the landlord of the property, Mr Patel, had pulled out of the scheme, adding: “It has been withdrawn as a result of intimidation in the community, which we find very concerning.”

The property owner Mr Patel has circulated a letter in the community which claims that it is Serco that has withdrawn its interest in the property because of what he calls the “false allegations” made in the initial correspondence.

More than 300 residents attended the meeting on Wednesday — and many said that they were doing so in light of the letter they received.

That letter stated: “(The property) has been converted from a private dwelling to a multi-occupancy hostel which will be managed by Serco, the UK-based security company who specialise in rehabilitating offenders and immigration control. If we allow this project to proceed further, it could affect the security of your family and have a negative impact on the value of property in Kearsley and Clifton.”

Mr Patel told The Bolton News: “It is a shame for the family that could have used the property because everything is done nicely inside. The problem is people have been going door to door with false information like saying there will be prisoners coming here. They have been spreading untrue rumours.”

Those rumours appear to have spread fear among the local community who have been boycotting the petrol station and turned out en masse at the meeting.

George Kirby, of the nearby Unity Brook pub, said: “It is not a problem with the garage or the owners, but everyone is unhappy. It is fantastic to see the community stick together.”

Resident Viemma Sherwin said: “There are a lot of letters going round and nobody knows the truth — if there are people coming they need to be screened, we need to know the background.”

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