Home Office contractor Serco has urgently overhauled its donation policy at the Britannia Airport Hotel – after a generous man who tried to give clothes to asylum seekers was turned away.
Rob Lupton went to the Britannia Airport Hotel earlier this month to find out how to donate clothing or other items the asylum seekers might need. But he was told by three members of Serco staff that he could not do so.
They then directed him to the Red Cross – who told him Serco had not so far allowed them to work directly with the asylum seekers either.
Rob had gone to the hotel after reading that 300 asylum seekers had been placed there last month. He said: “You hear on the news about asylum seekers and refugees and I just wanted to help them and be compassionate. Someone had posted a negative comment online about the asylum seekers at this hotel – so me and my girlfriend went down to ask the staff who we should give things to.”
“They just said it’s best to talk to the Red Cross about it. Then I spoke to the Red Cross and they said we can’t, we are not allowed to help directly there. It seemed very strange.”
Rob then contacted the Manchester Evening News to see how he could donate directly – and Serco then gave a different response, saying it would now work ‘very quickly’ with local residents to accept any donations.
Jenni Halliday, Serco’s Contract Director said: “We very regularly have really generous donations of gifts for the asylum seekers in our care from people throughout the North West and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone.”
“There are times when we do struggle to cope with the volume of donations, particularly in a hotel where we have no storage facilities, so we’re very quickly looking to work with local residents in Wythenshawe to put arrangements in place to manage these better and make sure that asylum seekers get the donations immediately.”
Rob Arnold, senior service manager for Refugee Services at the British Red Cross office in Trafford, confirmed the charity is not ‘currently working directly’ with asylum seekers at the hotel. But he stressed the help was there should Serco want it.
“We have offered help to Serco to those accommodated there and asked for people in need of our assistance to be signposted to our local services or given our telephone number. We would be happy to assist at any time,” he said.
“Anyone who is currently being accommodated at the Britannia Airport Hotel can contact us directly for help with issues including case work, tracing family members or finding a solicitor.”
“The British Red Cross is also here to simply offer emotional support, a place to socialise and meet other refugees and a welcoming environment for asylum seekers dispersed to this area.”
“We are not currently collecting clothing to directly pass on to people being accommodated at the Britannia Airport Hotel – our clothing donations are sold in our shops which then funds our work including Refugee Services. However if people would like to donate clothes directly to people who are asylum seekers or refugees we’d be happy to put them in touch with other charities in the Greater Manchester Refugee Support Partnership and local refugee support sector who can take them.”
“We really welcome these offers of support for people who are at an extremely vulnerable time in their lives and are always happy to take enquiries from people who would like to help us with our work.”