Sunday, December 5

UK Asylum Seekers Housed in Refurbished Prison Cell Shelter | Home Office

The asylum seekers are being housed by the Interior Ministry in a former courthouse turned hostel that promised backpackers nights in “a real prison cell”.

Hundreds of people are believed to be in the facility, which appears to have been a form of “theme park” accommodation in the prison cell and court, including some who were incarcerated in the past in their home countries, including Libya.

They have said that the experience of being locked up in the UK in prison cell conditions had traumatized them again.

The Guardian does not identify the facility after a series of far-right attacks on accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees.

The hostel was formerly a courthouse with a prison cell wing and has preserved many of the penal facilities, including cell windows and heavy dated cell doors with keys and prison style bunks.

The hostel, whose website includes the phrase “sleeping in a real prison cell”, has a mix of dormitories and smaller rooms, including the old cells.

The Interior Ministry has said that asylum seekers stay in “usual hotels” and that the part of the building with “experience rooms” is not accessible.

Internal email discussions from the Home Office on how to respond to The Guardian’s questions were inadvertently forwarded to another news outlet, which passed the correspondence on to The Guardian.

In the emails, an official says of the response written for The Guardian: “I called them experience rooms to avoid saying prison. Can we say that no one has stayed in the courtrooms or that they were improperly placed there? “

It also emerged on the internal email chain that when Interior Ministry officials visited the shelter on October 25, they discovered that there was overcrowding and a “fully prepared” courtroom.

He adds that some rooms had to be changed and beds removed to comply with local planning regulations. The emails state that no new asylum seekers will be transferred during the changes.

Psychology experts have found that asylum seekers housed in a military barracks, such as Napier in Folkestone, by the Ministry of the Interior, have been re-traumatized by the military environment, having fled military regimes or police or military violence. army.

While the use of the old prison wing was intended to provide a lighthearted interest and story for the backpackers who stayed there before the site was taken over by the Home Office, the wing has a very different resonance for the traumatized asylum seekers.

An asylum seeker who was staying there said: “Everything is so bad here. Some of us have passed through Libya where we have been imprisoned or tortured elsewhere. It makes us feel very bad living in a prison building even though we are not locked up ”.

He said the prison-style accommodation wasn’t the only bad thing. “We all sleep together and we are concerned that we will catch Covid,” he said.

He and others had complained to staff about the conditions, but nothing had been done, he said.

“I have trouble sleeping and I don’t feel safe here,” he said. “We were somewhere else before they put us here, which was better than this. They just move us like animals. They don’t care about us at all. “

Steve Crawshaw, Policy and Advocacy Director for Freedom from Torture, said: “This week we heard the Home Secretary ridiculously asserting that asylum seekers are drawn to Britain by the prospect of staying in our hotels.

“Now, it seems they are treating the arrest itself as a joke. The basic lack of humanity in the government’s approach is sometimes just unbelievable. “

Maddie Harris, founder of Humans for Rights Network, said: “It is unthinkable that the Home Office is using this place to house people seeking safety, many of whom will have been detained in countries like Syria and Libya.

“This is extremely traumatic for them. This accommodation must be closed immediately and residents must provide safe and secure accommodation that does not resemble a prison. “

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said: “Due to an unprecedented demand, we have had to use temporary accommodation, such as hotels, to comply with our legal obligations.

“The health and well-being of those in our care is our priority, which is why all accommodations must comply with relevant health and safety legislation with strict adherence to Public Health England guidelines.”

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