MP calls for Wigan hotel to stop housing asylum-seekers after incident involving schoolgirl

Several parents in the Standish area told Wigantoday that their daughters were forbidden to go out because groups of men were filming their physical education lessons at the local high school, winking and making comments on the street and, in one case, surrounding and photographing. a 12 year old girl.

Wigan Member of Parliament Lisa Nandy said she was dismayed that the Britannia Hotel in Standish was being used to accommodate vulnerable asylum seekers again, several years after both the Home Office and the service operator Serco agreed that it was completely unsuitable for this purpose, and they did. without notifying or consulting the police, the city council, themselves or the local community.

She demanded that the agreement be rescinded again as soon as possible.

One mother said: “The behavior of some men at the Britannia Hotel has caused so much discomfort.

“Obviously they need education. If you fled your country and want to be accepted in a new country, you need to know the customs of the new country.”

“The last thing we want is for all the bullies on the right to use this as an excuse to bring their toxic messages to Wigan again and provoke racism.”

Another said, “Now they have cops at Standish High right after school because of what’s going on and that gives them some peace of mind.

But the problems are not just limited to the school environment and that time of day.

“My daughters are being taken to school and back and they are not going anywhere else on foot right now because I don’t feel safe.

“This behavior is illegal at the border, so people are not arrested, but the concern is that this could increase if it is allowed to continue.”

The Wigan Council said it was aware of Standish’s problems and was in contact with both the Home Office and Serco.

Ms Nandi said: “I have been in contact with local families and the police about the concerns that have been raised in recent days. Our priority is to ensure that Serco puts plans in place to ensure the safety of all those involved and that this arrangement was quickly completed.

“The Home Office should stop treating city councils and communities with contempt and work with our local authority to ensure adequate alternative housing.”

She said she was shocked that Home Secretary Priti Patel did not “have the courtesy to respond” to the letter of concern I sent her about the case.

Ms Nandi added: “Across Greater Manchester, public health officials and charities are working together to plan a warm and convenient welcome for Afghan refugee families.

The mother of the 12-year-old girl, who was surrounded and photographed by a group of men, says that she is now terrified of going anywhere other than school.

Vicki Boyle said her daughter and several other girls in the Standish area are staying home instead of going to the park, shops or anywhere else on foot due to this incident and other girls who have received unwanted attention from strangers.

Some of the same men were seen watching girls participate in sports activities at Standish High School and harassing students outside the school gates at home time, prompting the school to issue a “danger warning.” strange “and there has been a lot of police attention outside the school in the last few weeks.

But Vicki says there is more to do. Her daughter, whose name we have not mentioned, was not called at school or at home, but at 8 p.m. on the famous boardwalk called The Line.

The incident occurred on September 7 and this week the police concluded that there was no crime.

But Vicki and her family are far from happy.

“Police say they may not have photographed her and they may not have tried to grab or touch her,” she said. But she was terrified.

“After all the months of confinement when everyone was denied human contact and psychological harm to the children, the last thing you need is more confinement for a separate reason now.

“But we stay with our girls all summer vacation because those guys hang out at Standish and at school. That night she convinced us to let her go to Aldi with a friend.”

“They were back, then a friend asked to go home leaving our daughter to make the last leg of the trip home alone.

“She was getting off The Line when she saw about 10 men standing upright, all staring at her. She panicked and she didn’t know what to do.”

“When she got closer, someone started filming her on her phone. He said ‘Stop!’ And they went around so she couldn’t escape. They said ‘come with us’ and she started crying. ”

Then he saw a man he knew by sight, and now we know his name is Ross Pilkington because he has become a local hero because of all this, and he manages to swing between two men and run towards Ross, who was with his boy. And her dog. he accompanied her to her house.

“I’m scared to think what would have happened if he hadn’t been there. My husband, Dominic, and I have been watching our kids about a strange danger and what you should and shouldn’t do, but me.” what would I do if faced with this situation I’m sure our oldest girl A tooth just got frozen.

We call the police immediately. Our daughter was sure that she could recognize five out of ten.

“Some of them are quite familiar here. They seem to have a special interest in girls. The most amazing moms may be walking down the street, but their school-age girls are the ones who wink or try to walk away.”

“Our daughter is now terrified to go somewhere other than school and come back. It’s not so comforting when these guys see girls doing a PE program through the fence.”

“The school was great with all of this and there were a lot of cops after school, but these incidents didn’t just happen there or at that time. I work at Lidl and some of these guys come in and they always just want to buy alcohol. Some of us were turned away because they just They are 16 or 17 years old.

“But then they go to The Line and there’s a drunken annoyance even after midnight sometimes.

“There is something to do with these guys. They need to be educated on how to behave. My husband has been walking around and hitting someone, but that’s not the answer. Then he will be the one to get caught.”

“I’m sure that the vast majority of those in the hotel are doing very well, but there is a minority who are not.

“There is widespread concern around Standish about what is happening, and girls in particular cannot enjoy their lives as they should.

“If nothing is done to address the problem, there is a danger that the public will take matters into their own hands. And that is wrong. It is surveillance. We do not. All people are smeared with the same brush and innocent people are hurt “.

A spokesperson for the Wigan Council said: “We are working closely with our colleagues at the GMP to ensure that any reported concerns are considered and responded to in the most appropriate manner, as well as to coordinate offers of assistance and support to applicants for asylum while they are in our city. ”

We also keep in regular contact with the Ministry of the Interior and Serco, who are responsible for the management of the hotel, to raise any problems.

“If residents have any concerns or believe that a crime has been committed, we continue to strongly advise them to report such incidents to Greater Manchester Police.”

In regards to the incident involving the 12-year-old boy, the spokesperson added: “We take the safety of our residents very seriously and work closely with our GMP colleagues to address any safety issues within the community.” .

Regarding the incident on the line, a Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: “Officers were called in at approximately 7.45am on 8 September to report a girl who had been approached by a group of men late at night. previous”.

“Investigations have established that a group of men were near the girl as she was walking down Preston Road, Standish, around 8 pm on September 7. The men did not approach the girl.

“The local neighborhood police team investigated this report and made several visits to reassure the family, and it was confirmed that no rapes had been committed.

“To reassure the local community, officers have increased patrols in the area and continue to work closely with our colleagues at the Wigan Council and all other community partners to provide assurance to hotel residents and the community at large. .

“Anyone with concerns should contact the police at 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously at 0800 555111.”

On the broader Standish issue, Neighborhood Inspector Phil James from GMP’s Wigan division said: “We want everyone who lives or visits Wigan to feel safe walking the streets.

“Several reports have been sent to us in recent weeks and we have listened to the concerns of community members.

“To help address these issues and reassure area residents, we have increased the number of officers who are patrolling. So if you have any concerns, please contact our officers and let them know.”

“Whenever serious incidents have been reported to us through reliable investigation lines, we have responded quickly and support those affected. You can also report any incidents online at www.gmp.police.uk.”

“We continue to work with the local council, hotel and other community partners to support all members of our community to make Wigan a safe place to live and work.”

Jenny Halliday, Contract Manager for Asylum Accommodation Services at Serco, said: “With a significant increase in the number of people arriving in the UK, we have had no alternative but to house some asylum seekers temporarily in hotels.

“These hotels are used only as a last resort, but as a provider of accommodation on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior, we have a responsibility to find accommodation for the asylum seekers under our care.

“The Serco team is working very hard to move people to dispersed social housing as quickly as possible.”

The city council spokesperson added that local authorities across the country must support asylum seekers who have been placed by the Interior Ministry in temporary accommodation, either in a house or, as in this case, in a hotel.

The spokesperson said that the Interior Ministry has identified accommodations at the Britannia Hotel and that there is a contract with Serco to manage the hotel and care for asylum seekers there.