Housing reform needed to protect asylum seekers
Frontline activists and workers in the asylum-seeking community have spoken out about the “toxic environment” thousands of asylum seekers are experiencing in hotels across the UK as COVID-19 continues after six were harmed during a knife attack last week.
Refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland were transferred from their accommodation to hotels in Glasgow shortly after the lockdown was introduced in the UK. The move was actioned by the company Mears, contracted by the Home Office to take responsibility for ensuring asylum seekers have safe, adequate housing.
On Friday 26 June, six were injured in an attack at one of the hotels used to house asylum seekers in Glasgow. Three residents, two members of staff and a police officer were attacked. The suspect was shot by armed police once they arrived at the incident.
On Friday 26 June, six were injured in an attack at one of the hotels used to house asylum seekers in Glasgow
Volunteers working to support vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers have criticised Mears for their lack of support when placing people in the hotels, calling the entire move a “disaster.”
Shafiq Mohammed of the Asylum Seekers Housing Project in Glasgow said placing hundreds of individuals – mostly young males – with mental health conditions and PTSD in hotels together, without any structure or support, is irresponsible.
Mohammed said: “It seems [Mear’s] primary motivation is to make a profit. The general approach is minimalist – ‘let’s see what we can get away with…'”
An anonymous charity worker stated that the individual suspected of carrying out the attack had been reported due to their aggressive behaviour. Yet despite evidence of their behaviour, no action was taken.
Reports include individuals originating from countries that are currently in conflict with each other being placed together and culturally inappropriate food being offered to residents.
The pitiful asylum seeker allowance of £5.39 per day was taken away from all residents once they had been placed in the hotels, meaning residents were forced to be in the hotel at all times with social distancing impossible due to overcrowding.
Campaigner Ako Zada labelled the conditions “dehumanising” and “humiliating” for residents.
Placing hundreds of individuals – mostly young males – with mental health conditions and PTSD in hotels together, without any structure or support, is irresponsible
Scottish MPs have criticised the far-right’s attempt to increase division such as former UKIP leader Nigel Farage claiming the attack highlighted the danger of “illegal immigrants.” SNP Justice Minister and MSP in Glasgow Humza Yousef was one of the many politicians who rubbished Farage’s comments, pointing out that the incident is not being treated as terrorism.
Yousef said in response to Farage: “Depressingly yet predictably some are using this horrific incident to further their far-right agenda. Glasgow won’t stand for your divisive hatred, so don’t even try it.”
Director of Positive Action in Housing, Robina Qureshi, said the tragic incident “underlines our concerns about the conditions in which vulnerable asylum seekers are forced to live.” She stated how many residents were labelling the experience as being in “hotel detention” due to being denied medical care and being subject to unsanitary conditions.
The situation is a depressing reminder of how little thought is given to refugees and how desperately housing reform is needed for vulnerable asylum seekers.