Asylum seekers forced to Self Isolate in Falkirk Hotel
9 December 2021
The Home Office accommodation contractor Mears has forced 54 asylum seekers, from countries including Syria, Iran, Iraq and Yemen, to self isolate after one man tested positive for Covid 19.
According to the residents, all asylum seekers (including those who are fully vaccinated with no symptoms) have been forced to self isolate with little access to exercise/fresh air. In contrast, the staff are free to come and go. There appears to be growing unease amongst residents about the amount of control that Mears has over their freedom of movement.
One resident said:
“I’m locked in self isolation even though I’m fully vaccinated since September. Yesterday [Monday] we were told by a Mears official that any person who is fully vaccinated or not showing symptoms will not require any self isolation, but the tone changed in the same day where all of us were forced to stay in rooms and self isolate.”
Another man said:
“It is easy to say: “Go to your room” for ten days. They do not know the suffering that we have in here. It is not easy to stay in a room 24 hours a day. We’re not working, we’re not studying, we have no activities, everyday we just sleep, we don't want to get depressed.
"Some of us have been threatened with the police if we try to leave our rooms. On Tuesday they gave us a piece of paper with a number to call if you want to leave your room. But our phones are not topped up. We can only use a Whatsapp number. And the rules keep changing, they said you're only allowed to leave for fresh air if you are a smoker. But I don't smoke. So should I smoke in order to leave the room to get fresh air?"
Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing, said:
“There is growing unease about the situation in the hotel. Asylum seekers who are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms are not allowed to leave their rooms. In addition, both staff and asylum seekers live in the hotel, yet only asylum seekers have been forced to self isolate.
"The Home Office accommodation contractor Mears appear to be treating human beings like a herd, by forcing all asylum seekers to self isolate, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or have symptoms. So far, there is nothing to suggest that this is the Omicron variant, yet people are being treated in what appears to be a discriminatory manner."
The Home Office has expanded its use of hotel accommodation in Scotland, with properties in Aberdeen and Perth also ready to be used. At the start of the pandemic asylum seekers were housed in hotels in Glasgow as an emergency measure. With these latest moves, it would appear that the Home Office is now using hotel accommodation as standard provision, with little or no consultation with local authorities.
Falkirk council leader Cecil Meiklejohn has previously expressed concerned about the lack of consultation by the Home Office. It is understood that the local authority was contacted with the decision only a short time before the asylum seekers arrived in the district.
Kenneth Lawrie, Chief Executive also recently expressed his concerns, saying: “We are keen to reiterate our serious doubts about the Home Office’s choice of hotel accommodation, which colleagues across health, social care, housing and the third sector agree is unsuitable."