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).