A heartbroken university fresher ‘ruthlessly dumped’ by landlords who ripped up her contract without warning just to move migrants into her luxury student tower block instead, has told of her anguish.
Ellie Robinson was one of more than 150 students at Huddersfield University left in the lurch after a deal was struck between the Home Office and landlords to move asylum seekers into the HD1 building.
The 18-year-old from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, had been planning for months to move into the 405-bed lavish halls, which has its own gym and cinema room and where top-end suites can cost £200 a month to rent.
But the first-year international business student was horrified when, with no prior warning, she was told the bombshell news that her tenancy contract had been cancelled – just weeks before the start of term.
Devastated Ellie was left in a state of panic as she and scores of other students scrambled to find last-minute replacement accommodation, in a fiasco branded a ‘total mess’ by Huddersfield’s MP. Ellie told MailOnline: ‘It was hugely stressful. I had to find somewhere else to live in just a few weeks. It was a kick in the teeth.
Ellie Robinson was one of more than 150 students at Huddersfield University left in the lurch after a deal was struck between the Home Office and landlords to move of asylum seekers into the HD1 building.
Pictured is the outside of the student block which is now being used to house asylum seekers
More than 100 university students are now in a desperate scramble to find new accommodation after it was said the building would be used to house asylum seekers (pictured is an impression of what some of the room in the building could look like)
‘I was really gutted because I wanted to move into this place because it looked really nice. It didn’t feel like student accommodation. It was more expensive, but I really wanted to stay there.
‘I was really shocked. I was all ready to move in. But then I had to find somewhere in just a few weeks was really awful. It was very stressful.’
Ellie, who is paying £9,500 a year for her three-year course – which includes a fourth year on placement – said she had first booked to see the flat back in April but had signed a contract in June.
She only managed to find a new place to live outside of Huddersfield yesterday – with just days to go before she starts her course on September 18.
She added: ‘It was a real rush. It’s not how I wanted to start the year. It’s shame. I just we would have been told a bit more about why our contracts were cancelled. We were left in the dark.’
Speaking about migrants taking over the tower block, she added: ‘I get why they’re doing this – they’re doing it to better their lives. But it’s a real inconvenience for students. There have to be other places they can do this.’
The situation outraged Labour MP for Huddersfield Barry Sheerman. He told MailOnline: ‘It’s a total mess. There was pressure at one stage back in the day for universities to recognise they were education experts but not residential experts.
‘A lot of universities sold all their accommodation to the private sector… Because of that now what seems to have transpired is that these guys have said, “oh this is nice, we get more money if we put asylum seekers in”.
‘Quite ruthlessly, they have dumped students who have built all their hopes and plans on these rather nice residences they thought they were going to get.’
The 18-year-old from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, had been planning for months to move into the 405-bed lavish halls, which has its own gym, cinema room and where top-end rooms can cost £200 a month to rent.
Dozens of students now just have weeks to find new digs in Huddersfield after the bombshell news was dropped. The block includes its own cinema room
To help with the house the new arrivals, the Home Office bought the HD1 block at Huddersfield, West Yorkshire – which comes with its own gym (pictured as an artist impression) and games room
Plans to move hundreds of asylum seekers into a 405-bed HD1 tower in Huddersfield, which has a cinema room and gym and where top-end studio flats can cost £200 a week, have outraged Labour MP Barry Sheerman (pictured)
Mr Sheerman said university vice chancellors were ‘wringing their hands’ about what had happened.
‘Everybody is washing their hands and saying ”not my fault guv”,’ he added.
Mr Sheerman, who previously chaired the Commons Education Committee, said he had three grandchildren at university and young people were already enduring a ‘really tough time’ with high costs and the impact of Covid.
‘The government has got to get a grip on this… the Office for Students isn’t fit for purpose,’ he said.
Mr Sheerman said the Home Office had to be held responsible for taking the accommodation meant for students.
‘We do have something called Cabinet government. Presumably the Home Secretary does speak to her colleagues in the education department,’ he said.
He added: ‘I have deep sympathy for students being given an appalling deal by the system.
‘At the end of the day the buck has to stop with the ministers responsible.’
No students were living in the tower block prior to the arrangement having been reached.
The HD1 student halls, only a short walk from the University of Huddersfield campus, in West Yorkshire, was previously advertised as ‘luxury student accommodation’.
Rooms were available to rent for from between £135 and £200 a week, with student facilities including a games room, pool table, cinema, gym and a washing room.
More than 20,000 migrants arrived in the UK this year (pictured are migrants reaching the UK on Tuesday)
The HD1 block has 405 beds – with 168 students who had reportedly signed on to live there having now been refunded (pictured is an example of a study area in one room)
News of the deal comes after 300 migrants made the perilous Channel crossing in small boats on Tuesday – taking the total number of illegal arrivals reaching this UK this year to 20,000.
Prestige Student Living (PSL), the lettings company, claimed landlord Hudd Student Management had told them the block would not be opening to students.
The block had previously been unoccupied over the summer. So far, 168 students, due to be living in the halls, have now been refunded.
In a statement, PSL told MailOnline: ‘Hudd Student Management, the landlord for HD1, informed us that the building will not be opening to students in September. This decision is beyond the control of Prestige Student Living.
‘Our team took immediate action to inform students and help them secure alternative accommodation in Huddersfield and return all payments made to us.
‘We deeply sympathise with the students affected by the news and will do all we can to support them.
‘Our agreement with the Hudd Student Management has terminated with immediate effect.’
The news outraged Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock who told LBC students were ‘paying the price for the Government’s reliance on emergency accommodation’.
Nick Hillman, the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, added he was ‘genuinely shocked’ by the news.
Some of the boutique rooms boast having views of the canals in Huddersfield (pictured is an example of one of the bedrooms on offer)
The halls are kitted out with their own kitchen and bathroom (pictured is an impression of the room, used of in official marketing material online)
‘It’s one thing for the Home Office to block-book an empty hall of residence that is brand new or empty but to let students down like this just before term starts seems pretty outrageous – especially when Huddersfield was identified earlier this week as an amber risk in terms of a shortage of student beds,’ he told the Telegraph.
He added the Home Office and landlords had a ‘moral duty’ to help the students but claimed that university accommodation is ‘not generally taken as seriously in Whitehall’ as other types of housing.
A spokesman for Huddersfield University said: ‘Huddersfield has sufficient student accommodation to meet the needs of our students and there are current vacancies available. For any students affected by this, who have not already been re-housed, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org ‘
The Home Office said Britain was facing a huge demand from asylum seekers crossing the Channel.
In a statement, a spokeswoman added: ‘We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being put on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.
‘We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options. The government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.’
Do you know one of the students affected at Huddersfield? Please email email@example.com