RAPAR sends Open Letter to the City Solicitor asking for immediate action
Manchester-based Human Rights Charity RAPAR has written to Manchester City Council’s chief legal officer about conditions at a hotel housing refugees which is managed by Serco on behalf of the Home Office.
People living in the hotel desperately need to speak about their fears and anxieties - but there is no safe whistleblowing mechanism in place that allows them to do this.
In an Open Letter to City Solicitor Fiona Ledden, RAPAR spokesperson Dr Rhetta Moran says that, over the last four months, a number of people have been slowly sharing disturbing information about serious safeguarding issues.
RAPAR acknowledges that the Home Office is responsible for the contract they have with Serco, and for the agreement Serco has with the hotel for accommodation and provision of food.
“We have tried to work through formal structures to address ongoing human rights issues but it seems to us that Manchester City Council is hiding behind the contractual relationship the Home Office has with Serco to avoid acting on genuine adult and child safeguarding concerns,” Dr Moran adds.
In the Open Letter to Ms Ledden, copied to senior health officials and council staff - including council leader Bev Craig - Dr Moran says RAPAR has consistently raised concerns with the City Council as the relevant body with statutory responsibilities for the hotel residents.
In March, lack of action by the Council led RAPAR to publicise the fact that children at the hotel were being denied their right to education. Refugee pupils with no school places have lessons in Manchester car parks | Education | The Guardian
“Despite this and, as far as we are aware, there is still no systematic mechanism to ensure that this violation of children’s rights ceases for good,” Dr Moran adds.
Since then, people at the hotel have told RAPAR they are worried about:
Earlier this month, Dr Moran attended a meeting about the hotel with two senior city council officers and a representative from another third sector organisation. She was unable to discover who from Manchester City Council has named, statutory responsibility for ensuring the fundamental safeguarding of residents at the hotel.
RAPAR knows that OHID (Office for Health Improvement and Disparities) is fully aware of the problems at this particular hotel and others managed by Serco across the North West and would like to know what they are doing about this public health matter.
At the meeting, the absence of a transparent, secure and accountable mechanism for reporting safeguarding issues prevented Dr Moran from sharing any primary evidence from RAPAR members who live at the hotel. “The residents are extremely vulnerable and they want to whistle blow about these safeguarding issues but they must have a secure mechanism to do so.”
On behalf of RAPAR, Dr Moran has previously sent a letter asking for a meeting with the Local Authority and Health officials to agree a mechanism for joint working. This could then be presented to the Home Office, Serco, the hotel chain management and Go To Doc which has recently replaced the local GP practice at the hotel. There was no response to this letter and it was this failure to respond that prompted the Open Letter to the City Solicitor from RAPAR.