A series of stabbings and a tragic death at a Glasgow hotel accommodating asylum seekers during the Coronavirus lockdown could have been prevented, a new report has found.
An independent Commission of Inquiry, chaired by the Baroness Helen Kennedy KC, conducted an in depth investigation of the circumstances of the ‘Park Inn Tragedy’ in June 2020. The inquiry report, launched last Friday at the Merchants House of Glasgow, finds that more could have been done to safeguard the health and welfare of asylum seekers moved to hotel accommodation.
A Sudanese man, Badreddin Abdallah Adin, who attacked fellow residents and was later shot by the police, had sought help for mental ill-health issues some 72 times before the incident. The report finds a general lack of compassion in the treatment of asylum seekers. It includes personal testimonials from victims, hotel staff, and NGOs serving those in the hotel. The inquiry heard that moves from homes to hotels were carried at short notice – often as little as ten minutes – and without any regard for health and well-being. One said, ‘My real trauma and stress just quadrupled when I was moved to the hotel. It was one of my worst memories I will remember all my life.’
The Home Office stated that its purpose in moving the asylum seekers was to minimise the spread of the virus and to lower the risk of homelessness. However, according to the inquiry report, no evidence suggested routine Covid-19 testing had been conducted. In addition, from documentation provided by the Asylum Seeker Housing (ASH) Project, the living conditions in the hotel were poor. The food served did not even meet basic hygiene and dietary requirements with pieces of wire and visible mould found in it; menstrual hygiene items had to be requested from the hotel reception where male security guards were often on duty at night; and some people lacked access to vital prescription mental health medication for weeks.
The Inquiry Panel concluded that ‘it is difficult to see any evidence that values care or compassion – or principles of understanding and respecting human rights.’ Baroness Kennedy notes that the UK asylum support system is in a ‘shambolic state’. At the launch event, she said ‘the Home Office has tried to save money by cutting the number of civil servants…the system is failing.’
The inquiry panel recommends that an independent decision-making system to oversee the asylum support and accommodation be established. The use of barracks, hotels and other congregate living arrangements across the UK should be replaced with properly funded and monitored community-based living arrangements. The panel also calls for a full public inquiry into the provision of asylum support and accommodation by contractors during the Covid-19 period.