Monday, August 15

Home Office ‘detention center-like’ hotels for asylum seekers – report | Refugees

Conditions in hotels used by the Home Office to accommodate asylum seekers during the pandemic are similar to those in detention centers, according to a report that also says accommodation is often poor and sometimes unsafe. .

The report, Safe Environment: Investigating the use of temporary accommodation to house asylum seekers during the Covid-19 outbreak, explore experiences in hotels and similar accommodations. It was conducted by academics from Edinburgh Napier University in association with the grassroots organization Migrants Organizing for Rights and Empowerment.

More than 50 asylum seekers in Glasgow provided information for the investigation. Although it is the local authority with the highest number of scattered asylum seekers in the UK, the experiences are very similar to hotels and other emergency accommodation in other towns and cities, such as the Napier Barracks in Folkestone. Lawyers and NGOs have documented a deterioration in the mental and physical health of asylum seekers as a result of spending long periods of time in this accommodation.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Home Office increased its use of hotels nearly tenfold, from 1,200 in March 2020 to 9,500 in October 2020. The motive was to reduce the spread of Covid and create a “safe environment” for applicants. asylum.

Glasgow was the scene of the fatal shooting by police against Sudanese asylum seeker Badreddin Abadlla Adam, 28, in June 2020 after he stabbed six people at the Park Inn hotel, which was being used to house asylum seekers.

Last week, a distraught asylum seeker climbed onto the roof of the Crowne Plaza hotel near Heathrow and threatened to jump. He is believed to have slipped from the roof and was not seriously injured. Police said he was detained under the Mental Health Act after the incident, but other asylum seekers at the hotel said they sent him back the next day. They said he was in a state of acute mental anguish when he threatened to jump from the roof.

The report highlights problems with people losing cash payments they had to buy food and other essentials at their former home office accommodation, which were often shared houses, when they moved into hotels. There are few cooking facilities in hotels and restrictions on mobility and visits from friends. One interviewee was told that the Interior Ministry could decide to deport them if they refused to go to the new emergency accommodation, another was told that they had too much luggage for a destitute person.

Particular concerns were expressed about a mother and baby unit in Glasgow that is used to accommodate more than 20 asylum-seeking women who are pregnant or have recently given birth. The unit opened in October 2020 and the women criticized the overcrowded and unsafe conditions, saying that basic kitchens were impossible to baby-proof, that there was nowhere to sit and breastfeed comfortably and that the baby bathtubs had to fold over to fit in showers.

One woman said: “I am even taller than the bed. I have to squeeze to sleep. “

Jeremy Bloom, an attorney for Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who has presented legal challenges over conditions in hotel accommodations, said: “The findings in this report are very consistent with what we are seeing on the ground. I have seen that the poor quality of accommodation leads directly to suicide attempts by asylum seekers, who are often extremely vulnerable and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. “

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said: “The report in question contains a number of factual inaccuracies, is based on a limited sample size and the Home Office has not been asked to provide any evidence or direct input to the report. During the height of an unprecedented health pandemic, to ensure that asylum seekers were not left destitute, additional accommodation was required on very short notice. “

A spokesperson for its accommodation contractor, Mears, said: “We recognize that living in hotel accommodation for an extended period has been difficult for users of our services and we have been moving people to dispersed accommodation as quickly as possible.” He added that the mother and baby unit had been designed with the advice of the NHS and the local authority and that now the needs were changing. “We are planning to house mothers and babies in dispersed quarters in the future.”

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