Refugees for Justice
In April, campaigners called on the UK Government to protect asylum support and to end hotel detentions in Glasgow. The Home Office contractor, Mears Group, made the controversial decision to move over 370 asylum seekers from their private accommodation to hotel rooms during lockdown. This was done at very short notice with little concern for the health and wellbeing of the occupants. Additionally, their daily allowance of £5.30 was stopped
A peaceful protest was organised at George Square by a group of asylum seekers on 17th June to highlight these conditions. This was met by a counter-demonstration of the far-right who sought to disturb and attack asylum seekers and their supporters while claiming they were defending statues. As I write, a protest is taking place at Brand Street to highlight the urgency with which asylum seekers need to be treated with dignity and respect.
Glasgow Councillors and MP’s have largely been supportive of the calls for better support but this has fallen on deaf ears in the House of Commons. Responses from Mears seem to ignore the reality for asylum seekers in these hotels. Critics say that asylum seekers should be grateful they are being housed at all but how long will this continue? Asylum seekers have been enduring this condition for over three months during lockdown. They had complained of being denied medical attention and being confined only to their rooms with no sunlight for long periods of time.
Asylum seekers had made simple requests such as edible food and it was the local community and refugee charities who began providing hot meals. They were also concerned as it had been made almost impossible for them to socially distance from one another.
Clearly mental stress has affected us all during the pandemic but imagine supplementing this with having no secure accommodation, literally no money to buy essentials and not knowing whether you will be returned to a country you have fled from when the lockdown is finally lifted.
The tragic death by suicide of a Syrian asylum seeker followed in May at McLays Guest House. Mears Group admitted their failure to carry out a vulnerability assessment before moving asylum seekers during lockdown but where is the accountability? A week after a protest, on Friday 26th June, the tragic incident at the Park Inn hotel shocked Glasgow. This may have been prevented if the UK Government had taken the protesters’ and politicians’ concerns seriously. There is evidence to suggest that the Sudanese asylum seeker had been suffering from mental ill health and needed support which was not being offered.
Under successive UK Governments, and an increasingly more hostile immigration system, we have seen the deterioration of conditions those seeking asylum are being confronted by. For instance, the insulting increase of of 26p per day on asylum support allowance, amounting to £39.60 per week. The decision to restart cessations and evictions. Home Office are pressuring asylum seekers to return home. Mental health services have been poor perhaps Mears obstructing help to cope with these challenges.
It is clear that hotel accommodation is inappropriate as a long-term solution. However, there are still asylum seekers in these hotels including unaccompanied children, trafficked women and people who have experienced severe trauma.
We know the circumstances of both asylum seekers who were under the care of the Home Office and Mears Group who failed them. I have no doubt the Minister for Immigration will deny any wrongdoing and things will return to business as usual.
Therefore, there is a need for a public inquiry. The Refugees for Justice Campaign has been launched in response to the deep wounds our city has suffered as a direct result of inhumane treatment of people who seek asylum in the UK. We call for an independent investigation of Park Inn incident at every level of accountability to ensure that this never happens again and the failures of the system are exposed and addressed. You can join the campaign by emailing: [email protected]
Our demands are for the UK Government to take immediate action to return asylum seekers to their residential accommodations and restore their financial allowance (£5.30 a day) immediately. For more details, please read our manifesto: