Demonstration of solidarity for Shay's family: Thursday, 27th April, 9.15am, steps of Manchester Magistrates Court
On 12th April, the Home Office subcontractor Migrant Help finally offered the family emergency accommodation in a flat in Liverpool on the same day that the MEN carried this report.
The family’s acceptance of this offer was witnessed by both Stockport Social Services staff and RAPAR members.
A few hours later though, the Home Office subcontractor arranged for the family to be taken instead to a Manchester City Centre hotel location. Believing that they were being returned to a Serco run contingency hotel where they would, once again, be subject to 24/7 surveillance by Serco, being unable to control who came into their living space at any time, or what or when they ate, the family refused to register at the hotel and, once again, a Stockport resident stepped in to shelter them.
It took another a week to get to the bottom of this miscommunication between different parts of the Home Office sub-contractor system that had led to this last-minute change of offer and its subsequent rejection by the family. In the meantime, Migrant Voice’s report into hotels secured national coverage further confirming what RAPAR has been reporting since the summer of 2022 and what Refugee Action had also found in their report published last month.
Then last Friday, when the family were finally able to speak with Migrant Help again, they were repeatedly assured that, once again, they would be offered emergency accommodation and not a hotel room. In fact, they were taken to Serco’s Britannia Hotel in Didsbury. This is the exact hotel where RAPAR first exposed human rights violations that date back to the spring of 2022. Further, as the family were in the reception area in Didsbury one of the Serco staff directly implicated in their allegations of abuse and assault at the Stockport Hotel actually phoned through to the reception to confirm that they were there, further traumatising the family and triggering flashbacks. Once again the family returned to the Stockport resident sheltering them.
From this coming Thursday, 27th April, their current shelter will no longer be available for them and, on the same day, they must present at Manchester Magistrates Court at 9.30 am, to plead before a District Judge. This follows their being arrested and charged upon discharge from Stepping Hill hospital last November.
On 18th November 2022, Stepping Hill Hospital wrote to mum and dad stating that “We have been informed that Serco have investigated your concerns, that investigation has been shared with GMP, and GMP have determined that it is not in the public interest for them to investigate”. So far, when the Home Office, the Hospital and Social Services have attempted to justify their actions, they have often referred to the fact that there is no ongoing investigation into allegations of assault and abuse. However, on 12th April, the MEN reported that “GMP confirmed an investigation into a suspected assault on Shay at the hotel where they lived is ongoing, but no arrests have been made.”
RAPAR is calling for a short demonstration of solidarity with this family before they enter to plead before a District Judge. Come along and please send messages of support to email@example.com.
Thursday, 27th April, steps of Manchester Magistrates Court, 09.15 Manchester Magistrates Court:, Manchester, M60 1PR
On the 12th of April, the MEN (Manchester Evening News) reported the UK Home Office's failure to safely house Shay Babagar and his family.
Shay and his family came to Greater Manchester last year after fleeing Pakistan where the 35-year-old human rights activist was involved in political groups fighting for the freedom of the occupied Balochistan region. Shay believes that he and his family's lives would be in danger if they were returned to Pakistan.
The MEN describes the abuse and inhumane conditions that Shay's family experienced in a Serco-run hotel in Stockport, Greater Manchester and their difficulties in securing safe accommodation through the Home Office. The Home Office has a statutory responsibility to house people seeking asylum. At the moment, the Home Office has contracted several private companies in England to provide accommodation in 'contingency hotels'. Shay went on hunger strike in November to highlight the conditions that people seeking asylum faced at hotels. Allegations of assault at the hotel where Shay's family were housed were reported to the police while he was in hospital, while RAPAR has for many months been challenging the conditions in these hotels in Manchester following several 'resident' reports of abuse and substandard living conditions. (See here and here.)
The MEN reports:
A refugee father and his family have been left 'homeless' following allegations he was assaulted at a hotel housing asylum seekers. Shay Babagar, his wife and daughter have been sofa surfing since leaving the hotel in November. The family refuse to return to an asylum seeker hotel.
Protesters stormed Stockport council offices on Tuesday (April 11), demanding the family is housed immediately. The local authority says it is bound by laws requiring the Home Office provides asylum seekers accommodation.
Greater Manchester Police have confirmed an investigation into a suspected assault on Shay at the hotel where they lived is ongoing, but no arrests have been made. Serco, which manages the hotel, 'completely refutes' the allegations.
The human rights activist went on hunger strike in November to highlight the alleged conditions asylum seekers are facing at hotels. Allegations of assault at the hotel where Shay's family were housed were reported to the police while he was in hospital.
Legal proceedings relating to the suitability of the contingency accommodation offered to Shay’s family are under way, but a judicial review has not yet been lodged.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that Migrant Help UK offered new accommodation for the family in Liverpool following the protest with help from the Home Office and Stockport council staff. But campaigners say the family was taken to a hotel in Manchester, which they refused to enter.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "As required by law, we provide asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute with free, fully furnished accommodation, three meals a day and a weekly allowance. This applies from their point of arrival in the UK. We do not comment on individual cases."
Read the rest of the piece on MEN here. And see RAPAR's recent post on Migrant Voice's report on hotel conditions in England.
Migrant Voice, a London-based charity organisation working with migrants and undocumented people, and RAPAR's partner organisation, released a report at the end of April that set out, in detail, utilising the testimonies of 170 'residents', the inhumane conditions inside Home Office 'continency hotels'. The report was featured in the Guardian newspaper on the 22nd of April:
Asylum seekers have been forced to live for a year in windowless rooms smaller than prison cells, served food so dire it is blamed for causing diabetes, and have spent days in their underwear because they only have one change of clothes.
These are the shocking conditions laid bare this weekend in a comprehensive report from the charity Migrant Voice, which took testimony from 170 asylum seekers staying in London hotels that are supposed to serve as short-term accommodation.
The charity has chronicled repeated accounts of overcrowding, “filthy rooms”, abusive and obstructive staff and “dangerously erratic” healthcare.
The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, recently told MPs that these hotels were “luxurious”.
More than 50,000 asylum seekers are being housed in nearly 400 hotels at a cost of more than £6m a day, with the Home Office struggling to reduce a record backlog of cases.
Although the research gives only a snapshot of conditions inside this huge asylum hotel network, it is one of the most comprehensive insights available into the experiences of its residents. (Read the rest of the piece.)
RAPAR's campaign Serco must go! (Serco is the Home Office contractor charged with providing asylum accommodation in the Northwest) has been established for several years. Most notably as part of this work, RAPAR has led a campaign alongside Shay Babagar and his family to challenge conditions and treatment in Serco-run hotels in Manchester. Shay's family reported significant abuses and inhumane treatment inside Serco hotels, and RAPAR and the family have been working together to ensure safety and rights for Shay and his wife and child, and all other residents of contingency hotels in the UK.
The report from Migrant Voice echoes and confirms RAPAR's ongoing concerns about and challenges to conditions in asylum hotels. Speaking with the Guardian, Dr Rhetta Moran from RAPAR said: “People are not only dissuaded from registering complaints, they are also threatened that notes will be put on to their asylum applications with the Home Office if they register complaints.”
Migrant Voice's and RAPAR's work to challenge conditions and treatment in Serco-run hotels, and hotels run by other private companies, continues. The Guardian's piece ends with a response from a Home Office spokesperson claiming safety (and safe-guarding) and high standards in hotels (claims that RAPAR has consistently disproven).
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take the safety and welfare of those in our care extremely seriously. We have safeguarding procedures to ensure those in hotels are as safe and supported as possible, ensuring that accusations are investigated.
“We expect high standards from all of our providers, and any asylum seekers who have problems with their accommodation can contact Migrant Help, 24/7, every day of the year.” (Guardian, 22nd April).
You can read the full report from Migrant Voice on their site: "No rest. No security" - Report into the experiences of asylum seekers in hotels (summary also available).