Yvette Cooper speaks out about missing children and Home Office negligence in contingency 'asylum' hotels
Last night (24th Jan.), Yvette Cooper, Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract, Castleford & Knottingley, posted a tweet exposing the UK Home Office's negligence in safeguarding children in asylum contingency 'hotels'.
Cooper said that 1 in 4 children in one Home Office-funded hotel have gone missing, that half of them are still missing, and that the UK Government is failing to act.
For many months, RAPAR has been calling for change to the Home Office's accommodation of people seeking asylum in the UK.
In early 2022, RAPAR uncovered and reported neglect and safeguarding concerns in a Serco-run hotel in Manchester when we found that the children there were not registered in school and were being taught by other residents and volunteers in the carpark of the hotel: Refugee pupils with no school places have lessons in Manchester car parks (Guardian, 8th April. 2022)
Later in 2022, we learned about significant safe-guarding concerns in another Serco-run contingency hotel in Stockport, and at the time wrote an open letter to the leader of Stockport Council. Shortly after that, we issued a press release setting out the concerns of the residents of the hotel and a further press release when Stockport Council told us that they shared our concerns about the hotel.
RAPAR has been working particularly closely with a man named Shay Babagar, a former resident of the Stockport hotel, who went on hunger strike for 35 days to protest against the conditions in the hotel to which his wife and child were subjected. Further information on our 'Seeking Justice' campaign is here.
The issues in the Stockport hotel, and Shay's hunger strike, have received significant media attention:
And last month, RAPAR issued a press release (16th Dec. 2022) when a whistle-blower and former Serco employee came to us to speak out about safeguarding, racism and scabies at another Serco asylum hotel in Warrington, citing staff's lack of DBS checks and understanding of safeguarding procedures, and their mistreatment of residents.
The safe-guarding issues and Home Office negligence to which Cooper refers are systemic and longstanding, throughout Home-Office contingency hotels - just this weekend past, the Guardian revealed that 'Scores of child asylum seekers kidnapped from Home Office hotel.
Nonetheless, the inhuman treatment of 1000s of people seeking refuge, and the kidnapping and disappearance of 100s of children in the hotels, remain ignored by the Home Office and denied by the for-profit companies that run the hotels. At the same time, as the Independent revealed today, persistent, egregious delays in the asylum processing system mean that families seeking asylum are forced to life in these unsafe conditions for indefinite periods (Independent 25th Jan. Thousands of asylum seekers living in hotels cannot be told refugee status).
It is vital that, immediately, hotel residents throughout n the UK are invited to participate in developing effective methods for keeping themselves and their families safe: people seeking asylum did not create these unsafe conditions and have every motivation to be part of the solution.