RAPAR'S OPEN LETTER TO COUNCIL LEADER MARK HUNTER AND GREATER MANCHESTER MAYOR ANDY BURNHAM
Refugees living in a Serco managed hotel in Stockport have raised serious safeguarding and health concerns that remain unaddressed despite numerous complaints.
RAPAR has written an open letter to Stockport council leader Mark Hunter, senior council officers and cabinet members, to draw their attention to the unsafe and unhygienic conditions at the hotel and the violation of people's rights. The letter has also been sent to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and the four Stockport MPs.
The disclosure follows concerns about a similar Serco managed hotel in Manchester and recent hard-hitting criticism from the Chief Inspector of Prisons about escalating problems at the Manston short-term holding centre in Kent.
"This is a UK wide issue," says RAPAR founder Dr Rhetta Moran. "Vulnerable people, for whom raising these concerns has involved great courage, have done so out of a real desire to improve things for everyone at the hotel."
The hotel has had cases of scabies with residents living in permanent anxiety about acquiring it, and other skin complaints have been reported. Rubbish is left to pile up in stairwells and corridors and includes medical waste hazards. Residents say it is also a fire hazard but their suggestions about handling waste have been ignored.
Transport help for essential hospital appointments has been refused, including for a child with mobility challenges. Requests for interpreters have not been followed up.
Some children are not in school and this situation has not been helped by the withdrawal of school transport. Food quality is poor, unhygienic and frequently inedible. People with medical conditions are given inappropriate diets. Yet residents are banned from cooking in their rooms and the £8 per person they receive each week is not enough to cover take-outs.
Children are able to leave the building without supervision, and there have been instances of non hotel residents entering the building and posing security risks. Serco staff walk into residents' rooms without permission and sometimes without knocking. There have been reports of Serco staff shouting at children, showing disrespect towards women, and ridiculing residents who have mental health issues.
Complaints about these violations have been made to Migrant Help, which Serco and the Home Office say is the correct procedure, but nothing has been done.
Serco manages the hotel on behalf of the Home Office. Along with similar hotels throughout the UK, it is meant to be temporary accommodation while people wait for their asylum claims to be processed. But families and individuals often end up living there for long periods of time so Safeguarding and Education are the responsibility of the local authority which covers the location of the hotels.
Dr Moran adds: "Calls are mounting for the removal of the latest Home Secretary. She is the Government representative with ultimate responsibility for the safeguarding of so many people who are being 'looked after' by the State, including the people seeking asylum in the UK's processing and detention centres, dispersal hotels and houses in the communities.
"Racists love her language. It dehumanises, stokes scapegoat fires, and tries to distract our attention away from the real 'invasion' - by multinational capital. It isn't the 'refugees' or the cost of 'living' that is creating our current crisis, including the gross hotel conditions described by our members. It is the cost of 'corporate greed' that is embodied in organisations like Serco."
For more information, see the RAPAR updates section of the website.
Or contact Dr Rhetta Moran 07776 264646
Kath Grant 07865 713474