Following the start of an inspection into the controversial use of two disused army camps as housing for asylum seekers in the UK by immigration watchdogs in mid-February, the charity Positive Action In Housing (PAIH) has compiled an unremittingly critical assessment of asylum-seeker accommodation under the management of contractor Mears Group.
‘Having had to consistently intervene with humanitarian support for over 20 years since forced dispersal first started in Glasgow and having observed the operations of private contract after private contract, we can safely describe the past 18 months under the Mears Contract as the most inhumane we have ever witnessed,’ it said in the conclusion of a 25-page report.
Glasgow has the biggest asylum population in the UK with 5,000 asylum seekers accommodated by the Mears Group. Between January 2020 and February 2021, Glasgow-based charity PAIH said it provided crisis support to 626 asylum seekers and their dependents who had no money or were struggling to make ends meet.
Its assessment constituted its ‘Submission of Evidence’ called for last month by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) into the use of hotels and barracks as contingency asylum accommodation.
The ICIBI evidence call itself followed widespread condemnation of safety mishandling and human rights abuse linked to the Home Office’s asylum-seeker accommodation of cramped multiply-shared rooms with inadequate hygiene and social-distancing scope in long-disused army barracks.
We can safely describe the past 18 months under the Mears Contract as the most inhumane we have ever witnessed
PAID’s report documents how back in March last year hundreds of asylum seekers living in private flats were forcibly moved into hotel-accommodation with other asylum seekers from across the city at very short notice. Households of one or two single adults or families were taken in vans four or five at a time, often with less than an hour’s notice.
“Evidence began to emerge of asylum seekers going hungry, being refused medical treatment having no money to buy sanitary protection, toiletries, mobile phone top ups or bus passes for essential travel,” it said.
The report looks at events leading to the widely-reported death of Adnan Walid Elbi, a young Syrian man who had been suffering from torture-induced trauma and suicidal thoughts. Adnan attempted to commit suicide twice prior to his move to the hotel suddenly and without notice, and his daily allowance of £5.39 was withdrawn.
Reflecting disingenuous information following the death, the report uncovers other serious failings by Mears as well as exploring the background leading to the shooting in June of Badruddin Abdalla Adam after he attacked and stabbed six people in the Park Inn Hotel in Glasgow.
It points out that his deteriorating mental health had been raised previously with staff by another hotel resident. He himself is alleged to have sought help after reportedly being forced to self-isolate 24/7 for 20 days in the Park Inn with suspected Covid symptoms.
Why were 90 people who were likely to have suffered mental trauma during and previous to their asylum journeys being crowded into hotels?
‘Why were 90 people who were likely to have suffered mental trauma during and previous to their asylum journeys being crowded into hotels? Amongst them were trafficked women, unaccompanied asylum seeker children and survivors of torture and persecution,’ it asked.
‘Our evidence highlights abuses of human rights by asylum contractors with zero background in direct housing provision,’ said PAIH’s report.
‘Mears Group has a contract to execute–transporting asylum seekers into hotels or flats and anyone who gets in the way of that contract, because of human frailties, becomes a problem to be minimised. A culture of fear appears to be used to suppress complaints and ensure compliance,’ it said.
Header image: You and Mears [Mears Group]