According to a recent report, refugees who complained about the poor living conditions in the UK’s asylum facilities were “threatened” with deportation to Rwanda. The report entitled Hostile Accommodation: How the Asylum System Is Cruel By Design, relies on 100 in-depth interviews with hotel occupants in London, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Bradford.
Asylum seekers in the UK are required by law to be given housing in order to keep them from becoming homeless. However, the Home Office has contracted with private companies that follow a profit-based business model to supply homes in place of local authorities or housing associations.
According to the report, asylum seekers were also warned not to complain about their poor living circumstances lest they be sent to Rwanda and that the police would be contacted if they did. They were also told they were barred from taking pictures of meals to offer evidence of their quality.
There are up to 50,000 individuals held in hotels, where they stay for months or even years while their applications for asylum are processed. At these hotels, the people are held indefinitely, and their freedom of movement and fundamental rights are constrained – ‘a nationwide system of racialised segregation and de facto detention,’ the report stated.
They are forced to survive on £9.50 per week. Many people claim that they have been unable to buy necessities for months as they are prohibited from working.
Other concerns highlighted in the report include:
- Around half of the people polled reported overcrowding and lack of privacy, as many rooms are without locks and personnel enter rooms without permission.
- More than a third cited a lack of fundamental amenities. Asylum seekers describe rooms with non-opening windows that are either extremely chilly or stuffy. The heating was reportedly damaged, and the rooms were reportedly chilly. Family units are housed in spaces with insufficient beds.
- Over a fifth of those surveyed reported living in unhygienic circumstances, and a quarter of respondents said there was mould in their rooms. Infectious disease epidemics are being brought on by these circumstances.
- The majority of accommodations lack cooking facilities, and several individuals complained that the food was inedible and that they or their kids had lost weight or displayed indications of malnutrition. Staff enforces food restrictions, and food is frequently an element of the punishment regimen. A human trafficking victim’s baby ‘stopped progressing in her development due to the nature of the food.’
‘We do not recognise the claims in the report suggesting hospitalisations, threats of deportation or restriction of movements, but where concerns are raised about any aspect of the service delivered by the hotel we work with the provider to ensure they are addressed in a timely manner,’ a Home Office spokesperson said.