Pressure is increasing on the Government as evidence reveals the unsanitary physical conditions of contingency hotels and various safeguarding failures for asylum-seeking children.
The Home Office has failed to end housing asylum seekers in hotels, despite its repeated pledge to end the practice. The Government’s own data reflects a soaring number of asylum seekers being placed in hotels since the pandemic, from 2,577 people in March 2020 to 37,142 in September 2022.
The Government has been slow to react to concerns over the hotels’ physical conditions and safety. Grassroots organisations, such as the Croydon Refugees and New Communities Forum, have campaigned to expose sites with rodent infestations, dampness, mould and leaks. Extended indefinite stays in these hotels, and the safeguarding failures therein, continue to have detrimental effects on the wellbeing and safety of asylum-seeking children.
As more refugees crossed the Channel to the UK via boat, authorities have been slow to consider the asylum applications of those trapped in hotels. Recent anti-migrant protests outside of asylum seeker hotel in Merseyside continue to highlight important safety concerns.
Many asylum seekers also continue to be wrongly age-assessed as adults, and are only confirmed to be children after later social service assessments. Last year, at least 40 children were mistakenly placed in a designated-adult hotel, where one of them was stabbed. Although the incorrect age-assessment of two asylum seekers and their subsequent treatment was ruled unlawful by the High Court, some continue to defend current practice.
Moreover, concerns remain for the mental vulnerability of unaccompanied children kept indefinitely in hotels. There have been a string of recently reported kidnapping and trafficking incidents, after which the government admitted that there are more than 200 missing children unaccounted for.
As put by one safeguarding expert, ‘[t]hese children feel despair, waiting and waiting with no end in sight and that pushes them into the arms of traffickers’, with many feeling that they have ‘no other option’.
The Government to speed up the processing of asylum applications, raise sanitary conditions of hotels used to house asylum seekers and care for child asylum seekers’ fundamental rights and mental health.